Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter allegedly used a racial slur during a company conference call in May on the subject of how to avoid unflattering public relations incidents, Forbes reported Wednesday.
Forbes reported that Schnatter used the slur after being asked how he would distance himself from racist groups, and tried to play down the blowback he received for tying the NFL’s national anthem protests to lower sales for Papa John’s.
“Colonel Sanders called blacks ni–ers,” Schnatter reportedly said on the call, adding the Sanders didn’t face outcry for his use of the slur.
Schnatter also reportedly said that when he was growing up in Indiana, people would drag black people from trucks until they died.
Schnatter meant the comments to show his opposition to racism, but others on the call found his statements offensive, according to
Forbes noted that Schnatter’s remarks were meant to show his opposition to racism, but others on the call found his statements offensive.
Laundry Service, the marketing agency who arranged the call, cut ties with Papa John’s after the statements.
Papa John’s did not deny the incident in a statement to Forbes: “Papa John’s condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting. 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.”
Update: In a statement issued through the company, Schnatter said: “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.”
The Forbes’ report sent shares of Papa John’s (PZZA) plunging more than 6% at one point Wednesday. The stock was down 3.2% in later trading.