UofL to remove Papa John's name from Cardinal Stadium
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Papa John's Cardinal Stadium will now be called just Cardinal Stadium.
University of Louisville president Dr. Neeli Bendapudi made the announcement at a news conference Friday afternoon.
"We said (the name change is) effective immediately," Bendapudi said. "I don't know how quickly that will be, but it's to move very quickly."
The decision was made 48 hours after Forbes magazine reported that Papa John's founder John Schnatter used the N-word during a conference call with company executives and a marketing agency. The report prompted a same-day admission from Schnatter, and then his resignations from the boards of Papa John's, the University of Louisville and the UofL Foundation.
"I want to remind all of you that Papa John's the company ... there's 120,000 employees whose livelihoods depend on what's happening," Bendapudi said. "I really hope each of us distinguishes between the individual and the company."
Bendapudi also said that despite Schnatter's slip, she still believes Papa John's remains a company in good standing in the Louisville community.
"I trust the company, that they want to do the right thing," Bendapudi said.
There will be no new title sponsor, at least anytime soon, Bendapudi said.
Thursday, several current UofL football players tweeted that they supported a name change. And Friday, even former UofL basketball star Donovan Mitchell, now a member of the NBA's Utah Jazz, weighed in on Twitter:
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Bendapudi said Schnatter himself supported the decision to take the Papa John's name off the stadium.
"He was very supportive of our taking the name off," she said. "(He) said that he really wanted to do this for the students, and did not want it to be a distraction."
Schnatter's name will also be removed from the Center for Free Enterprise at the UofL business school. Similarly, business programs funded by Schnatter at the University of Kentucky have cut ties with him.
When asked about fears donations would be pulled by the pizza mogul in response to the business school decision, Bendapudi said he was in favor of removing his name.
"I spoke to Mr. Schnatter and he was actually very much in favor of that," Bendapudi said.
She said she understands there are some legal risks associated with dropping the Papa John's name from the stadium and the related naming rights contracts of $14 million put forward by Schnatter and $6 million by the Papa John's company.
"I've often joked that pizza is the great equalizer in our society," Bendapudi said. "No matter who you are, everybody gets pizza. So, please remember. There are 120,000 people and their families and their livelihoods associated with it. We in Louisville of all places are to understand that."
As mentioned previously, the University of Kentucky announced they are completely cutting ties with Schnatter. UK President Eli Capilouto said the pizza mogul would not be recognized in the programs he helped create on campus.
"We appreciate Mr. Schnatter's understanding that his unacceptable language is contrary to the values of the University of Kentucky. We believe in his sincerity to try to make amends. But attempting to continue any financial relationship with Mr. Schnatter would be a painful and unnecessary barrier to our efforts of building a community where everyone is welcome and belongs. Therefore, we will be continuing the important work of the Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise, but neither the Gatton College of Business and Economics nor the Institute will recognize Mr. Schnatter in any way."
The John H. Schnatter Family Foundation made it clear it was a mutual agreement with UK to cut ties.
"When we started working with the University of Kentucky to create the John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise in 2015, our focus was, and remains to this day, the students, who benefit from understanding the role free markets play in the economy and society. Based on recent events, the University feels that Mr. Schnatter's involvement with this program could be a distraction to students and scholars. With that in mind, we have mutually agreed to end our partnership with the University."
Papa John's CEO Steve Ritchie released a statement regarding the controversy surrounding Schnatter and the pizza chain's brand late Friday.
"The Board of Directors of Papa John’s accepted Mr. Schnatter’s resignation as Chairman of the Board earlier this week. It has also been decided he will no longer be in any of the advertising or marketing materials associated with the brand.
This decision is the first of several key steps to rebuild trust from the inside-out. We will be engaging a broad set of stakeholders to chart a course forward that demonstrates our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
First, we will identify and retain an independent and outside expert to audit all of our existing processes, policies and systems related to diversity and inclusion, supplier engagement and Papa John’s culture. As part of that process, we will establish a process for communicating progress against transparent goals to everyone in our Papa John’s family.
The entire senior management team will also be visiting key locations across the country and hold listening sessions with employees in our stores to talk about what they are seeing and give them a platform to voice their concerns. To follow-up, we will initiate two-way conversations to invite ongoing feedback from employees and franchisees to ensure that their voices are heard.
I will personally be leading this effort because there is nothing more important for Papa John’s right now. We want to regain trust, though I know we need to earn it. We will demonstrate that a diverse and inclusive culture exists at Papa John’s through our deeds and actions."
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