Embattled pizza chain Papa John’s on Friday moved to erase the memory of founder John Schnatter — literally.
The chain, with 5,212 locations, said it would remove the 56-year-old executive’s likeness from its logo, promotional materials and other marketing efforts, days after he drew heat for using the N-word during an inter-company conference call.
In addition, Major League Baseball has discontinued its Papa Slam promotion with the Louisville, Ky.-based company, and at least 12 MLB teams — including the Yankees and Mets by Friday— dropped local sponsorships. Also on Friday, the University of Louisville said it would remove Schnatter’s name from its football stadium.
The 34-year-old pizza chain plans to hire an independent expert to audit all the company’s processes, policies and systems related to diversity and inclusion, Chief Executive Steve Ritchie said in a statement. Ritchie stressed that the chain, with 120,000 employees and franchise “team members,” is more than just Schnatter.
Meanwhile, on Friday afternoon, Schnatter, in an interview on WHAS, a Louisville radio station, said he was pressured to use the N-word during the conference call.
“The agency was promoting that vocabulary … They pushed me. And it upset me,” he told host Terry Meiners.
“It’s caused a lot of grief for my community, for my university,” Schnatter noted. “My employees are distraught, they’re crushed, and it’s all because I was sloppy and I wasn’t as sensitive. It’s the same mistake I made on the NFL comments.”
The executive caught flak in January when he said Papa John’s, a longtime NFL sponsor, saw its sales get dinged because of the league’s players’ national anthem kneeling protest.
Those comments led to him stepping down as CEO — and the NFL cutting ties to the chain.