John Schnatter, the founder and former CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, already lost the respect of many when he blamed the peaceful NFL National Anthem protests for sinking sales. The struggle pizza man was caught saying the “N-Word” during a phone conference and has since apologized.
John Schnatter—the founder, chairman and public face of pizza chain Papa John’s—used the N-word on a conference call in May. Schnatter confirmed the incident in an emailed statement to Forbes on Wednesday.
The call was arranged between Papa John’s executives and marketing agency Laundry Service. It was designed as a role-playing exercise for Schnatter in an effort to prevent future public-relations snafus. Schnatter caused an uproar in November 2017 when he waded into the debate over national anthem protests in the NFL and partly blamed the league for slowing sales at Papa John’s.
On the May call, Schnatter was asked how he would distance himself from racist groups online. He responded by downplaying the significance of his NFL statement. “Colonel Sanders called blacks n—–s,” Schnatter said, before complaining that Sanders never faced public backlash.
Schnatter also reflected on his early life in Indiana, where, he said, people used to drag African-Americans from trucks until they died. He apparently intended for the remarks to convey his antipathy to racism, but multiple individuals on the call found them to be offensive, a source familiar with the matter said. After learning about the incident, Laundry Service owner Casey Wasserman moved to terminate the company’s contract with Papa John’s.
Okay, so on one hand, it’s good Schnatter is admitting his fault in using the slur. But coupled with his stance on football players protesting and this latest “slip-up,” Papa John’s Pizza better come up with their next sports-related gimmick for the goop they try to sell to the public.