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Papa John's founder and chairman quits after using n-word in media training session

Caitlin Morrison
Schnatter founded Papa John's in 1984: Reuters

The founder of Papa John’s has stepped down as the pizza chain’s chairman after using a racial slur during a conference call.

The resignation follows reports John Schnatter used the n-word during a media training call with a marketing agency.

According to CNBC, Mr Schnatter allegedly said: “Colonel Sanders called blacks [the n-word],” and then complained the KFC founder never faced a public backlash.

Papa John’s said in a statement: “Papa John’s condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting ... We take great pride in the diversity of the Papa John’s family, though diversity and inclusion is an area [in which] we will continue to strive to do better.”

Ironically, Mr Schnatter’s remarks were made as he took part in a role-playing exercise aimed at minimising public relations issues, after having faced a backlash last year for blaming sluggish pizza sales on NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. Papa John’s is a major NFL sponsor and was forced to apologise for the comments, made in November.

The fast food group said at the time: “The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologise to anyone that thought they were divisive. That definitely was not our intention.

“We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players’ movement to create a new platform for change. We also believe, as Americans, we should honour our anthem. There is a way to do both.”

Papa John’s said Olivia Kirtley would act as lead independent director following Mr Schnatter’s departure, and added it would appoint a new chairman in the coming weeks.

Shares in the group fell almost 5 per cent in Wednesday trading.

Additional reporting by news wires