Papa John's founder resigns as chairman after apologizing for racial slur

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter resigned as company chairman late Wednesday after it was reported that he used the N-word during a conference call in May.

The company said in a statement that it will appoint a new chairman in the coming weeks.

The news comes the same day Schnatter faced intense backlash for using the racial slur while taking part in an exercise on handling public relations. Forbes first reported on the comments Wednesday, stating that Schnatter used the N-word after being asked how he would distance himself from racist groups.

“Colonel Sanders called blacks n—–s,” Schnatter reportedly said on the call, referring to the founder of KFC. Schnatter said Sanders didn’t face backlash for his statements.

Schnatter also reportedly said that when he was growing up in Indiana, people would drag black people from trucks until they died. Schnatter had said that the comments were intended to show his opposition to racism, though others on the call reported being offended by the remarks.

According to Forbes, Laundry Service, the marketing agency that arranged the call, cut ties with Papa John’s after the exercise.

The question came in response to blowback Schnatter received for linking NFL players’ protests of the national anthem to lower sales for the pizza company. According to Forbes, Schnatter tried to minimize the impact of his statement on the anthem protests.

In a statement following Forbes’s report, Papa John’s did not deny Schnatter’s comments.

“Papa John’s condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting,” the statement said. “We take great pride in the diversity of the Papa John’s family, though diversity and inclusion is an area we will continue to strive to do better.” 

Schnatter on Wednesday issued an apology for the remarks, stating, “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,” Schnatter said in a statement.

Schnatter also resigned from his post on the University of Louisville’s board of trustees after the comments came to light, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.

Schnatter has been the face of Papa John’s since stepping down as the company’s CEO in December amid backlash from his comments about NFL protests.

— Updated 12:15 a.m.

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