05/28/2013 07:08 pm ET Updated Jul 28, 2013

Papa John's CEO John Schnatter Apologizes For Employee's Racist Rant

By Barbara Liston

SANFORD, Fla., May 28 (Reuters) - The founder and chief executive of Papa John's pizza chain has issued an apology after one of the company's pizza delivery men in Sanford, Florida, accidentally pocket dialed a customer and left a racist rant on his voicemail.

An unidentified customer posted a clip on YouTube of the message, which was laden with racial slurs and captured a conversation the employee held with a co-worker in the central Florida city where the shooting of Trayvon Martin occurred.

In the message, the delivery man complains about a $5 tip, uses a derogatory word for African Americans and sings what he called an opera composed entirely of the racial epithet.

"I guess that's the only requirement for being a (insert term) in Sanford," the driver tells a laughing coworker. "Yeah, they give me five bucks there -- fine outstanding African-American gentleman of the community."

John Schnatter, the CEO of Papa Johns International Inc , posted an apology on the company's Facebook page and said the two employees have been fired.

"Friends, I am extremely concerned to learn about the reprehensible language used by two former employees in one of our restaurants," the post said. "Their thinking and actions defy both my personal and the company's values, and everything for which this company stands."

Race relations in Sanford have been in the spotlight over the last year after the shooting death of Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

Sanford police initially declined to arrest a former neighborhood watch captain after he killed Martin on Feb. 26, 2012.

George Zimmerman claimed he shot Martin in self defense. Zimmerman faces charges of second degree murder and his trial is set to begin June 10.

In his Facebook posting, the customer showed a copy of his receipt and his cell phone call log showing calls to the pizza store and from the driver.

The customer wrote on Facebook, "This is highly offensive, derogatory, and ignorant. I am appalled that there were no managers or supervisors from stopping this kind of conversation in the work place."



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