- Papa John’s founder and former CEO John Schnatter resigned as chairman of the company after admitting to using the N-word on a company conference call.
- The call was to discuss preventing further controversy for the pizza chain, following backlash when Schnatter slammed NFL leadership over players’ national anthem protests last year.
- Schnatter previously sparked controversy in his opposition to Obamacare and donated to Trump’s presidential campaign.
The founder and former CEO of Papa John’s, John Schnatter, resigned as chairman of the company on Wednesday, after admitting to using the N-word in a company conference call.
Earlier on Wednesday, Forbes reported that Papa John’s executives and marketing agency Laundry Service held a conference call in May in an attempt to prevent controversies for the brand. Last year, Papa John’s faced backlash when Schnatter blamed the NFL and players’ national anthem protests for subpar sales.
“On the May call, Schnatter was asked how he would distance himself from racist groups online,” a source told Forbes. “He responded by downplaying the significance of his NFL statement. ‘Colonel Sanders called blacks n—–s,’ Schnatter allegedly said, before complaining that Sanders never faced public backlash.”
The source added that although Schnatter intended for his remarks to show his stance against racism, multiple people found it objectionable. Schnatter admitted he made the remarks and apologized.
The politics of Papa John
Schnatter has long been a controversial character, in large part because of his political viewpoints.
The then-CEO’s statements about NFL dragged Papa John’s into the middle of a polarizing debate last year, garnering backlash on the left and support on the right. The Daily Stormer, a white-supremacist website, even posted an article questioning whether Papa John’s was the “official pizza of the alt-right.” The chain responded that it did not want “hate groups” buying its pizza.
Prior to the NFL scandal, Schnatter came under fire in 2012 for saying that the Affordable Care Act could be “lose-lose” for Papa John’s franchisees and employees. Schnatter argued that Obamacare would cost Papa John’s $5-8 million annually and ultimately drive up the price of pizza.
The backlash was swift, with many promising to boycott Papa John’s in response to Schnatter’s comments. Papa John’s shares slumped about 4.2% during the controversy, Forbes reported.
Schnatter moved away from public political discussions following the Obamacare controversy. The CEO donated $1,000 to President Trump’s campaign but did not make any effort to publicly support the politician.
- PAPA: The Story of Papa John’s Pizza
“As far as the politics, I have no idea,” Schnatter told Business Insider prior to Trump’s inauguration. “I do think we ought to give the new administration at least a chance to either do better things or to botch it.”
Though he has avoided speaking on specific policies, the CEO has maintained his anti-regulation perspective.
In his 2017 book “Papa: The Story of Papa John’s Pizza,” Schnatter argued that regulations are steering the US away from the system of free enterprise he believes is crucial to the nation’s success.
“America in 2016 is on the path to becoming what Germany was in 1867,” Schnatter writes in “Papa.”
1867 is the year that Schnatter’s great-grandfather immigrated to the US from Germany as a young craftsman seeking work. The US was a land of opportunity where people were free to become successful without fear of attack or government interference.
Speaking with Business Insider in January 2017, Schnatter emphasized that he believes that regulation in the US needs to be dialed back to help businesses thrive.
“You’ve got to have free markets with limited government, with the proper amount of regulation where you don’t jam entrepreneurship,” Schnatter said.
Schnatter has also taken a public stance against overpaid executives.
“It’s an immoral arrangement. It’s wrong,” Schnatter said last year. “And that’s why corporate America has got a bad name.”