Papa John’s Founder Resigns Amid Allegations He Used Racial Slur

John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John's, was on a conference call with company executives when he went into a racist tirade about not being a racist.

Exterior view of a Papa John's store in Westminster, Colorado.


Papa John's founder John Schnatter resigned from his position as the chairman of his company's board after admitting and apologizing for using a racial slur during a conference call made earlier this year in May.

Until the company appoints a new chairman, Olivia Kirtley will act as the lead independent director, reported CNBC.

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter reportedly used a racial slur on a conference call made earlier this year.

The conference call was held back in May, according to sources knowledgeable about the matter, between company executives and a marketing agency. Ironically, the call’s purpose was to address ways in which the company could prevent future incidents, like comments made by Schnatter last fall, from affecting the business in a negative way.

In November of last year, Schnatter suggested that NFL protests by players — who were attempting to draw attention to the issue of racial disparities in policing and other aspects in America — were hurting his sales.

“The NFL has hurt us,” he said then. “We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this.”

Those comments were widely criticized (although they received praise from white supremacists), and resulted in Schnatter being removed as CEO from the company. Sales slumped considerably for months after his comments and removal.

During the May conference call, Schnatter reportedly whined about his comments being construed as racist and lamented that other fast food figureheads didn’t receive the same treatment.

“Colonel Sanders called blacks n*****s,” he said.

Schnatter also tried to provide evidence that he wasn’t himself a racist, pointing out that “people used to drag African-Americans from trucks until they died.”

Papa John’s issued a statement that said in part that it “condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting.”

But even with that statement, it’s clear that Schnatter’s attitude toward protesting NFL players extends to disrespect to black people in general. The threshold for racism is not violence or murder against people of color, and his use of the derogatory slur is evidence that Schnatter does not hold the African-American community in high regard.

A more proper apology from Schnatter is needed, not some cookie-cutter line from the company’s public relations department. What’s more, if he can’t hold back from exposing his bigotry on a conference call meant to address ways in which his own comments hurt the company’s image, perhaps it’s time for Schnatter to step down for good.

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