Papa John's Founder Resigns Amid Fallout Over Using N-Word on Conference Call

"Simply stated, racism has no place in our society," John Schnatter said in a statement

Papa John’s is moving on without its namesake founder.

The pizza chain announced the resignation of John Schnatter as chairman of the board late Wednesday following a backlash over the founder’s use of the N-word on a conference call in May.

Forbes reported on Wednesday that the former face of Papa John’s used the racial slur during a call between the chain’s executives and a marketing agency called Laundry Service.

Schnatter was reportedly asked how he would distance himself from racist groups online. “Colonel Sanders called blacks n—–s,” Schnatter allegedly said on the call, referring to the KFC founder.

In a statement issued through Papa John’s to Forbes, Schnatter did not deny the allegations. “News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true,” he said. “Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”

John H. Schnatter
Rob Kim/Getty

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In November 2017, Schnatter faced a backlash after he blamed Papa John’s’ sales decline on the NFL national anthem protests while on an annual earnings call — and the most recent call in May was designed as an exercise meant to prevent similar PR nightmares in the future.

He stepped down as CEO of the company in December 2017.

Papa John’s said Olivia Kirtley will act as the company’s lead independent director and they will appoint a new chairman of the board in the coming weeks.

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