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Papa John’s Founder Resigns After Racist Rant Leaks

Amid calls for a boycott, the pizza chain’s stock is tanking

Papa John’s International Rings the NASDAQ Opening Bell Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images

The man who founded Papa John’s in 1984, John Schnatter, resigned as chairman late Wednesday. His exit comes a day after a recording of him using a racial slur on a conference call leaked to Forbes.

As previously reported, Schnatter described acts of violence against African-Americans and used the N-word on a call with his public relations agency, allegedly in an effort to “convey his antipathy to racism.” The conversation was part of a “role-playing exercise” designed for Schnatter in order “to prevent future public-relations snafus.”

But because of his views, everything about that conversation backfired: Schnatter’s PR firm quit over the remarks he made, per Forbes, and after the tape leaked on Wednesday, social media users were calling for a boycott of the pizza chain. Meanwhile, Papa John’s stock tanked.

He released a statement late Wednesday admitting to his comments and expressing regret: “News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true. Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”

Back in January, Schnatter stepped down from CEO to executive chairman less than two months after he blamed NFL players who protested the National Anthem for the chain’s flagging sales on an earnings call. That mess led to the call in May where, apparently, Schantter somehow regressed into using racist slurs. He complained that “Colonel Sanders called blacks n——s,” but that Sanders had never faced public backlash, and continued by telling a story about how where he grew up in Indiana “people used to drag African Americans from trucks until they died.”

Papa John’s stock is down to its lowest point so far this year.