John Schnatter has been accused of using a highly offensive racial slur during a May conference call to discuss how to prevent future public relations problems for the founder and chairman of the Papa John’s pizza chain.
A Forbes magazine report published Wednesday morning cites a source with knowledge of the conference call, during which the Louisville-based pizza baron was asked to role-play through scenarios to help him learn how to handle tough issues. Schnatter stepped down as chief executive officer of Papa John’s at the beginning of the year after a series of blunders.
Schnatter was asked on the May call how he would distance himself from racist groups online. That topic came up because the company’s sales slowed after Schnatter’s statements in 2017 about NFL players protesting racial injustice during the national anthem.
“Colonel Sanders called blacks n—–s,” he allegedly said, adding that Sanders never faced backlash.
Papa John’s did not refute the report Wednesday, but issued a statement saying that it “condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting. Our company was built on a foundation of mutual respect and acceptance.”
Shares of the company’s stock were down 3.8 percent to $48.86 at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday following the report. Shares had fallen as much as 6 percent in intraday trading. Papa John’s stock is down about 13.5 percent year-to-date.
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The report said Schnatter “also reflected on his early life in Indiana, where, he said, people used to drag African-Americans from trucks until they died.” The reference apparently was meant to show that he found racism deplorable, but the source told Forbes that multiple people on the call were offended.
Forbes reported that the owner of the PR firm working with Schnatter terminated its contract with Papa John’s after it learned about the call.
Grace Schneider: 502-582-4082; email@example.com; Twitter: @gesinfk. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/graces
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