Papa John’s can’t get out of its own way.
Its stock was down more than 4 percent on Wednesday following a report that founder and chairman John Schnatter allegedly made racist comments during a May conference call in which he was receiving public relations training from an outside marketing firm.
The controversial restaurateur – who had to step down as chief executive in January for his remarks on football players taking a knee during the national anthem – allegedly said “Colonel Sanders called blacks n–s” and never faced a backlash, according to Forbes, which first reported the incident.
Schnatter also reflected on his youth growing up in Indiana, where he allegedly said on the conference call that “people used to drag African-Americans from trucks until they died,” according to the Forbes report, which claimed that Schnatter shared the story in a misguided effort to show his distaste for racism.
Representatives of the outside marketing firm, Laundry Service, declined to comment on the incident. But its owner, Casey Wasserman, terminated the company’s contract with Papa John’s, according to reports.
The pizza chain issued a statement without confirming or denying the incident.
“Papa John’s condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting. Diversity is an essential ingredient in our pursuit of providing a better product and better service to our customers and to the communities where we operate and live. We take great pride in the diversity of the Papa John’s family, though diversity and inclusion is an area where we will continue to strive to do better.”