John Schnatter, the founder of pizza chain Papa John’s, resigned as chairman of the company’s board Wednesday after reports surfaced that he used a racial slur in a conference call in May, the company announced.
Schnatter used the N-word in a call between Papa John’s executives and marketing agency Laundry Service, Forbes reported early Wednesday, citing a “source with knowledge of the event.”
Schnatter acknowledged using the slur and apologized on Wednesday, but that was not enough for him to keep his position.
“News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true,” Schnatter said. “Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”
Schnatter’s comments have landed the company in hot water before. The pizza magnate blamed a slump in sales last year to a series of protests by NFL players who knelt on the field during the national anthem. Many of those players were protesting police brutality and racial inequality.
“The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction. ... The NFL has hurt Papa John’s shareholders,” Schnatter said on a conference call with investors. In February, the NFL cut its sponsorship ties with Papa John’s, which had been a league sponsor since 2010.
He resigned as the company’s chief executive in January amid a public outcry.
Schnatter founded Papa John’s in 1984 and grew the company into a delivery behemoth with more than 3,400 locations in North America.
Papa John’s will appoint a new chairman in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Olivia Kirtley will act as the company’s lead independent director, the company said.