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Papa John’s Founder John Schnatter Resigns - Carlos Gamino
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Papa John’s Founder John Schnatter Resigns

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By Carlos Gamino 

Papa John’s, the 5,212-location pizza chain, is removing its founder’s image from its logo and promotional materials after the 56-year old exec caught heat for using an inflammatory racial word during a conference call with other executives. A dozen MLB teams have dropped local sponsorships, and the entire organization has cancelled its Papa Slam promotion.

John Schnatter, the executive who used the derogatory term, told WHAS radio in Louisville that he was pressured to use the word during the call. 

“The agency was promoting that vocabulary. They pushed me. And it upset me,” said Schnatter. “It’s caused a lot of grief for my community, for my university. My employees are distraught, they’re crushed, and it’s all because I was sloppy and I wasn’t as sensitive. It’s the same mistake I made on the NFL comments.”

The New York Mets issued a statement that said, “The highly offensive comments by the founder of Papa John’s are completely inconsistent with our values. We immediately suspended promotion activities with the sponsor prior to our game Wednesday night.”

The pizza chain, which is 34 years old, has plans to hire an independent expert to reevaluate policies related to diversity and inclusion, according to CEO Steve Ritchie. 

Distancing itself from Schnatter seems to be a step in the right direction, but is it enough? Papa John’s already saw stock prices take a nosedive after news broke that Schnatter used the word. 

Restaurant journalist Steve Coomes, who has interviewed Schnatter several times, wrote on Facebook, “Teflon John has always said too much, criticizing people within his company, its franchisees and nearly always those who left Papa John’s to work elsewhere. The title of the post: “A Tale of a Man Who Couldn’t Tame His Tongue.”

The remarks Schnatter made on the conference call were in reference to Kentucky Fried Chicken founder, Col. Harland Sanders, and the racial slur he had used to describe black people. Schnatter said that Sanders didn’t have to put up with significant backlash for using the term, but that Schnatter himself did because of his NFL comments.

In the past, Schnatter has said too much and been vilified by the press. For example, in 2012, he complained that the healthcare overhaul brought on by the Affordable Care Act would add $0.14 to the price of a pizza. And last fall, he said that the NFL’s handling of protests by black players caused Papa John’s pizza sales to decline. The latter comment led to his resignation as the company’s CEO.

What Do You Think?

Do you think Papa John’s was right to distance itself from Schnatter, or is this whole thing being blown out of proportion? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino