LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Pizza hero John Schnatter, the founder of the Papa John's empire that boasts more than 5,000 stores around the world, on Wednesday admitted to the use of a racial slur and then stepped down from the University of Louisville Board of Trustees.
He has since resigned as Chairman of the Board for Papa John's Pizza. And in his hometown, he faced more backlash as the mayor of Jeffersonville stripped the "John H. Schnatter" name from a historic gym he donated to restore.
This is how it all unfolded -- in less than 24 hours.
The call was "a role-playing exercise" for Schnatter, intended to prevent additional public-relations missteps following Schnatter's foray into the debate over NFL player protests of the national anthem, Forbes reported. At one time the official pizza of the NFL, Papa John's lost its partnership with the league -- Pizza Hut is the NFL's new official pizza -- and the chain's stock price has dropped by more than 20 percent since last November. Also, Schnatter, who was once a regular on Papa John's television commercials, was booted from that role, and he eventually stepped down as CEO.
On the call, which Forbes said took place sometime in May, Schnatter referenced another local fast-food figure, Colonel Harland Sanders, the face of popular chicken chain Kentucky Fried Chicken.
"Colonel Sanders called blacks n-----s," Schnatter allegedly said on the call, according to Forbes. The report also said Schnatter "reflected on his early life in Indiana, where, he said, people used to drag African-Americans from trucks until they died. He apparently intended for the remarks to convey his antipathy to racism, but multiple individuals on the call found them to be offensive," a source told Forbes.
Wednesday morning, a Papa John's spokesman shared the following statement with WAVE 3 News:
WAVE 3 News later received the following statement from the company, said to be an official statement from Schnatter:
On Wednesday afternoon, the Louisville branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or the NAACP, called on Schnatter to step down from the University of Louisville Board of Trustees. Their statement said in part:
UofL Professor Dr. Ricky Jones, often outspoken about race issues around WAVE Country and across the country, posted his thoughts on Twitter:
And late Wednesday afternoon, Jones got his wish, as BOT Chair David Grissom issued a statement to the media.
RunSwitch PR, the public relations firm for the UofL Foundation, confirmed that Schnatter is also no longer on the UofL Foundation Board.
On Wednesday evening, Schnatter took another hit.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore grew up with Schnatter in Jeffersonville. Moore announced the city would be removing "John H. Schnatter" from the John H. Schnatter - Nachand Fieldhouse.
The historic gym was renamed in September of 2017, when Schnatter made a $800,000 donation to the "Save the Fieldhouse" project. The building, which was built in 1937, needed major improvements. Schnatter made the sizable donation to ensure the building got the renovations it needed.
Wednesday around 6 p.m., Moore made the announcement that Schnatter's name would be removed. By that time, it was already off the building's facade at the main entrance.
"They have subtly threatened a lawsuit," Moore said. "It's not easy to turn your back on an $800,000 gift, but some things are more important than money. There's so much great history to this building."
Moore said he hopes Schnatter will allow them to keep the $800,000.
"I think he needs to put some funding to some of these organizations that he hurt," Sadiqa Reynolds, of the Louisville Urban League, said. "He is an influential person with a lot of power. And he has wielded that power in ways that has not always been great for the African American Community."
She believes the only place his name belongs now "is on his mailbox at his house."
Bill Stone, who is an Overseer at UofL, said he respected Schnatter's actions in the wake of the controversy.
"I thought John showed dignity and class by resigning quickly and not putting UofL through a long, laborious debate about this issue," Stone said.
He does not think Papa John's name should be removed from stadium.
"The name John Schnatter isn't there," he said. "The name of the pizza is there. So let's not go bonkers over all this."
A spokesman for the University for Kentucky, Jay Blanton, also provided a statement on the criticism Schnatter faces: