Founder and public spokesman for Papa John’s Pizza, John Schnatter resigned Wednesday as chairman of the company’s board of directors after using a racial slur during a conference call in May. Instead of denying his ignorant statements, Schnatter publicly apologized before offering his resignation to the board of directors.
Immersed in controversy after blaming NFL national anthem protests for declining pizza sales last November, Schnatter participated in a conference call in May between Papa John’s executives and marketing agency Laundry Service in an attempt to prevent future blunders. When asked how he would distance himself and the pizza company from online racists and hate groups, Schnatter deflected the question while stating, “Colonel Sanders called blacks n—–s,” while noting that the public did not turn against Sanders or Kentucky Fried Chicken.
After Schnatter noted that white men used to fatally drag black people behind trucks in his home state of Indiana, Laundry Service owner Casey Wasserman decided to terminate the company’s contract with Papa John’s Pizza.
In an emailed statement on Wednesday afternoon, Schnatter told Forbes, “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 Wednesday evening, the company released the following statement: “Papa John’s International, Inc. today announced that the independent directors of the company have accepted the resignation of John H. Schnatter as Chairman of the Board. Olivia Kirtley acts as the company’s Lead Independent Director. Papa John’s will appoint a new Chairman of the Board in the coming weeks.”
Last December, Schnatter stepped down as CEO of Papa John’s after blaming decreased pizza sales on former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who had knelt during the national anthem as a form of civil protest against disproportionate police violence against black people. Schnatter later apologized for his comments after white supremacists repeatedly praised his racially insensitive comments.
In response to Schnatter’s recent racial slur and comments, J. David Grissom, chairman of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees, issued the following statement on Wednesday: “After speaking with John, I’m confident that his comments, while inappropriate, do not reflect his personal beliefs or values. No member of 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.
“John has tendered his resignation from the University of Louisville board of trustees effective immediately. The board appreciates his 2 years of service and thanks him for his generous support for so many years.”