John Schnatter, Papa John’s founder, former CEO, and company chairman, resigned his position as chairman after admitting that he used the N-word during a May marketing call to discuss NFL protest fallout.
On Wednesday, a Forbes report emerged alleging that Schnatter had used the slur during the May marketing call.
The incident reportedly prompted Laundry Service to cut ties with the company, as several on the call were offended by Schnatter’s language.
According to the outlet, the call between Schnatter and the marketing company was set up for Schnatter to engage in a “role-playing exercise” in which Schnatter would be trained to “prevent future public relations snafus” like the one in December that followed when he blamed the NFL kneeling protests for struggling third-quarter earnings in 2017.
Schnatter resigned as CEO in December after criticizing the NFL, but retained his position as the company chairman.
According to Forbes, during the May conference call, Schnatter was asked how he would distance himself from racist groups online.
He reportedly responded, “Colonel Sanders called blacks n*****s,” and then Schnatter complained that Sanders never received backlash for his commentary.
Schnatter also reportedly recalled his Indiana childhood, where Forbes reported Schnatter said “people used to drag African-Americans from trucks until they died” in an attempt to portray his opposition to racism.
Papa John’s issued a statement on Wednesday, and didn’t deny that Schnatter had made the comments.
The company said, “Papa John’s condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting. Our company was built on a foundation of mutual respect and acceptance. One of our core company values is People Are Priority Always (P.A.P.A.) and we are committed to maintaining a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace for all of our corporate and franchise employees.”
The company’s statement continued, “Diversity is an essential ingredient in our pursuit of providing a better product and better service to our customers and to the communities where we operate and live. We take great pride in the diversity of the Papa John’s family, though diversity and inclusion is an area where we will continue to strive to do better.”
Later in the day, Schnatter came forward to address the controversy, and admitted that he made the comments in question.
Schnatter apologized Wednesday, saying, “News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true. Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”
On Thursday, CNBC reported that Schnatter resigned from his chairman duties at the pizza chain. Papa John’s said in a statement late Wednesday night that it will appoint a new chairman in the coming weeks.
Schnatter’s resignation from the board came on the heels of Major League Baseball’s decision to indefinitely suspend their promotion with Papa John’s — the Papa Slam coupon promotion — which kicked off in 2016.
CBS News also reported that Schnatter resigned from his position on the University of Louisville’s board of directors, on which he served for two years.
The board’s chairman, David Grissom, said, “After speaking with John, I’m confident that his comments, while inappropriate, do not reflect his personal beliefs or values.”
Grissom added that the board did not condone “racism or insensitive language regardless of the setting.”