John Schnatter, founder and chairman of the board of Papa John’s International, Inc., has resigned in the aftermath of reports that he made a racial slur during a meeting in May with the pizza chain’s media agency.
Schnatter on Wednesday admitted to making the slur in an email to Forbes magazine.
Forbes said the meeting was arranged by the agency, Laundry Service, “as a role-playing exercise for Schnatter in an effort to prevent future public relations snafus.”
In a quarterly earnings call in November last year, Schnatter had partially blamed professional football players’ silent protests during the singing of the national anthem before games for declining sales at his chain.
Papa John’s had been an official sponsor of the National Football League. Following Schnatter’s comments, he resigned as CEO but remained chairman of the board, and the chain’s official sponsorship ended, replaced by Pizza Hut.
According to Forbes, Schnatter downplayed his NFL comments, saying of the founder of KFC, “Colonel Sanders called blacks [the N-word]” without repercussions.
Schnatter, in his comments to Forbes issued by Papa John’s International, apologized.
“Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”
In a statement announcing Schnatter’s resignation, Papa John’s said Olivia Kirtley was acting as the companies lead independent director and that a new board chairman would be announced “in the coming weeks.”
Laundry Service confirmed that it is no longer working with Papa John’s.
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