The founder and CEO of Papa John’s pizza chain is in hot water after using the N-word during a conversation on a conference call.
John Schnatter confirmed to Forbes magazine that the incident did take place back in May during a discussion with his marketing agency, Laundry Service. Some readers may recall that Schnatter has been fighting bad press since publicly criticizing the NFL player protests last season. After a 25% drop in sales, the pizza president was forced to engage Laundry Service to help deal with public relations. Forbes Magazine reports that the now-infamous conference call was part of a role-playing exercise with Schnatter answering question he might face from media.
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.
On Wednesday Schnatter issued an apology for the statements, explaining that his remarks were taken out of context.
“News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true,” John Schnatter said in a statement to Fox News. “Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”
However, the apology didn’t see to be enough. Shortly afterward, the Papa John’s company issued a statement saying they had excepted their founder’s resignation.
This story recalls shades of Roseanne Barr’s tweet-heard-round-the-world. Should a man who built his own business be exiled from his position for quoting the racist comments of another person? Should that man be fired for awkwardly expressing that he understands the significance of racism and race issues?
This seems like a heavy price to pay for someone who has produced thousands of jobs for people of all races and backgrounds. However, this seems to be the society we are building for ourselves – one where impossible standards of perfection and expression are sure to sink even the most accomplished people.