Papa John’s founder John Schnatter stepped down as chairman of the company’s board late Wednesday after apologizing for using a racial slur in a May conference call.
Schnatter was the subject of a Forbes report earlier Wednesday, which included saying Schnatter used the N-word during the call. Later in the day, he admitted to Forbes the allegations.
“News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true,” he said. “Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”
Papa John’s announced the resignation of Schnatter as Chairman of the Board late Wednesday. The company will appoint a new chairman in the coming weeks, it said.
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Schnatter’s resignation from the Papa John’s board follows his resignation earlier in the day from the University of Louisville Board of Trustees.
He had been a longtime supporter of the university and was the naming donor for its football stadium and giving to other areas of the school.
“After speaking with John, I’m confident that his comments, while inappropriate, do not reflect his personal beliefs or values,” University of Louisville board chairman J. David Grissom said. “No member of the board of trustees condones racism or insensitive language regardless of the setting. The University of Louisville embraces and celebrates diversity and is a supporter of all its students and stakeholders regardless as to their identity. The board appreciates his two years of service and thanks him for his generous support for so many years.”
The Louisville NAACP called for Schnatter to step down, stating “in the place where high ideals are developed, taught, practiced and expected to be emulated and modeled, there is no place or role for a person who uses the N-word knowing what its usage has denoted..”
The University of Kentucky also has ties to Schnatter. In 2015, it accepted $12 million from two of his foundations to create the John Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise in the Gatton College of Business and Economics.
“Without question, the language reported in the conference call is unacceptable and has no place in our community,” said UK spokesman Jay Blanton. “We look forward to Mr. Schnatter further addressing this issue in response to the heavy criticism he is rightly receiving.”
On Thursday, Jeffersonville, Ind., Mayor Mike Moore said Schnatter’s name has been removed from a sports fieldhouse.
The incident began with a conference call with Papa John’s executives and marketing agency Laundry Service that included a role-playing exercise for Schnatter to prevent public relations messes, Forbes reported in a story initially based on an unnamed source. Schnatter was asked how he would distance himself from racist groups online.
Schnatter responded by downplaying his statement last fall that NFL player protests have hurt his pizza business, according to Forbes.
“Colonel Sanders called blacks n----s,” Schnatter said, before claiming the KFC founder never faced public backlash like he has received.
During the same conference call, Schnatter also said other remarks that the marketing agency deemed offensive, Forbes reported. Schnatter said that when he grew up in Indiana, people would drag black people behind trucks until they died, the source told Forbes.
Laundry Service later dropped Papa John’s as a client.
Last year, Schnatter stepped down as CEO after claiming football players kneeling during the national anthem was slowing sales growth. In February, the NFL dropped Papa John’s as its official pizza.