Arguably the University of Louisville’s most visible fan, Papa John Schnatter is back in hot water after comments on a recent company conference call surfaced in public.
The comments, which Schnatter confirmed he said to Forbes, are the latest in what’s been a troubling few months for the pizza mogul.
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.
In the wake of the news reports regarding the incident, Schnatter is no longer on Louisville’s board.
Things aren’t awesome at his day job either.
Schnatter left his role as CEO of the company he founded last year after blaming his company’s bad run of pizza sales on the NFL’s wave of player protests (he stayed as chairman at the time).
On Wednesday night, Papa John’s released a statement accepting Schnatter’s resignation as chairman of the board, with Olivia Kirtley taking over on an interim basis.
But as far as Louisville’s concerned, his ouster from the board of trustees has been a long time coming.
In 2017, Schnatter went after U of L brass, including then-AD Tom Jurich, who’s since lost his job in his own scandal.
Schnatter never mentioned Jurich by name, but his consistent references to U of L athletics and the “leadership” of the athletic program left little to the imagination. It also bears mentioning that he chose to do this before the Board’s closed session, making it obvious that he wanted these comments to be heard and reacted to by the public.
Two weeks after his fight with Jurich, in April 2017, Papa John resigned from the Louisville athletic association board. This seems like a situation where it was the last straw for Louisville. But Cardinal athletics will continue to be linked with the pizza man. The company’s headquarters is near Louisville, and Schnatter lives in a suburb of the city.
Although he isn’t an alum, it’s doubtful he’ll stop attending Cardinal sporting events. So at the very least we still might get pictures of him looking wasted in Cards gear.
Incidentally, that pictures from Louisville’s now-vacated basketball national championship. The NCAA doesn’t remember the victory, and Schnatter might not either.
And finally, Schnatter owns the naming rights to Louisville’s football stadium.
It’s not technically named after the company, and it would take plenty of legal gymnastics to take it off that the school likely isn’t interested in, but grammatically, that stadium name is his. As a student of syntax, how else are you to interpret the name Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. It’s also legally his.
And Louisville is already making moves to scrub him from campus.
On Wednesday evening MLB also suspended its Papa Slam promotion indefinitely, according to Yahoo! Sports, five months after the NFL ended its sponsorship deal with the pizza chain.
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