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Papa John’s to remove founder’s image from marketing after racial slur

World News | Published:

The pizza chain said there were no plans to change its name.

Papa John’s

Papa John’s, which has featured founder John Schnatter in logos and TV ads, is removing his image from its marketing material after reports he used a racial slur.

His face was taken off at least some materials by late morning Friday, though the company said the details and exact timing for everything were still being worked out.

The pizza chain said there were no plans to change its name.

Schnatter, who has long been the face of the brand, is still on the board and is the company’s largest shareholder, meaning he remains a key presence.

John Schnatter
John Schnatter has long been the face of the brand (Charles Krupa/AP)

Papa John’s has acknowledged in regulatory filings that its business could be hurt if Schnatter’s reputation was damaged.

Papa John’s got a taste of that last year, when Schnatter stepped down as chief executive after blaming disappointing pizza sales on the outcry surrounding American football players kneeling during the national anthem.

This week, Papa John’s was already trying to further publicly distance itself from Schnatter after Forbes reported he used the N-word during a conference call in May.

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Schnatter apologised and said he would resign as chairman.

That prompted the company’s stock to recover some of the losses it suffered after the report, and shares were up 1% Friday. Schnatter owns nearly 30%of the stock.

In addition to appearing in TV ads, Schnatter’s image has been on packaging and at the centre of a logo that was usually all over the company’s website.

Schnatter had used the slur during a media training exercise, Forbes said.

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When asked how he would distance himself from racist groups, Schnatter reportedly complained that Colonel Sanders never faced a backlash for using the word.

Schnatter subsequently issued a statement acknowledging the use of “inappropriate and hurtful” language.

“Regardless of the context, I apologise,” the statement said.

The fallout has already included Major League Baseball indefinitely suspending a promotion with Papa John’s that offered people discounts at the pizza chain after a player hit a grand slam.

The University of Louisville also said Schnatter resigned from its board of trustees, and that the school would evaluate the naming arrangement for Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Papa John’s International began operations in 1984 and had more than 5,200 locations globally.

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