Current University of Louisville football players went on social media Thursday calling for Papa John’s signage to be removed from the team’s stadium after a racist comment by the company’s founder was publicized this week.
Seth Dawkins, a junior wide receiver who started 10 games last season, called for the named to be taken down in a Twitter post Thursday afternoon.
“We need to change the name of the stadium ASAP, I’m not here for it,” Dawkins tweeted.
The post had 109 retweets and 412 likes in three hours, including endorsements from some teammates. Senior wide receiver Jaylen Smith, junior offensive lineman G.G. Robinson and sophomore linebacker P.J. Blue retweeted the post.
When a responder replied that Dawkins could probably expect a phone call from a coach or administrator, Dawkins replied, “Yea I’m expecting one here soon but it’s outta hand at this point.”
Later Thursday, university president Neeli Bendapudi said she was evaluating the naming-rights deal.
“We haven’t had a chance to discuss it formally but yes, certainly we are aware that there is a lot of interest in this and we are hoping to come together to discuss it,” she said to reporters, according to a report by WDRB.com.
Papa John’s founder John Schnatter resigned from the U of L Board of Trustees and the board of his company Wednesday after Forbes published a report that he had used the n-word during a conference call. The call was scheduled to help Schnatter with media relations after negative fallout from his comments about NFL protests during the national anthem.
Schnatter acknowledged the report was true Wednesday and issued an apology.
On Friday, the Associated Press reported Papa John’s plans to remove Schnatter’s image from all marketing materials.
Despite the apology, Schnatter’s hometown of Jeffersonville, Ind., on Thursday returned a donation of $800,000 and removed Schnatter’s name from a city gym and community center.
Late Wednesday, Major League Baseball apparently suspended its “Papa Slam” promotion, according to a report. The deal offered a discounted pizza to fans of teams that had a grand slam the previous day. On Thursday, the Miami Marlins announced they were suspending their relationship with the pizza chain.
The U of L Board of Trustees issued a brief statement Wednesday announcing Schnatter’s resignation. Board chairman David Grissom did not speak to reporters when approached on Thursday.
The naming rights to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium rest with Schnatter himself, not the company nor the university, according to his contract with the university, and those rights run through 2041. The deal, outlined in a Kentucky Center of Investigative Reporting story last year, specifies that Schnatter can rename the stadium any way he sees fit, even removing the company name and replacing it with his own.