John Schnatter, who founded Papa John’s in 1984, has resigned his role as chairman following a Forbes report that he used the N-word during a company conference call in May. The call was reportedly between Papa John’s executives and marketing agency Laundry Service and was designed as a role-playing exercise to prevent Schnatter from making any more public-relations snafus. In November 2017, Schnatter blamed national anthem protests by NFL players for slowing Papa John’s sales.
On the call, Schnatter was asked how he would distance himself from online racist groups. He reportedly replied, “Colonel Sanders called blacks n——s,” and complained Sanders had never faced public backlash. Schnatter then went on to mention that where he grew up in Indiana, people used to drag African Americans from trucks until they died. According to Forbes, he had “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.”
In an emailed statement on Wednesday, Schnatter confirmed the allegations, saying: “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.”