Papa John Schnatter Says He Was 'Pushed' To Use the N-Word That Ended His Career

Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter attends the Indy 500 on May 23, 2015, in Indianapolis.
Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter attends the Indy 500 on May 23, 2015, in Indianapolis.
Photo: Michael Hickey ( Getty Images)

Embattled pizza chain founder John “Papa John” Schnatter says that he used the word “nigger” on a company conference call because he was working with an agency that was “promoting that vocabulary.”


In the days since Schnatter admitted to the racist mea culpa, his reputation and that of the Louisville, Ky.,-based company has slid into a toxic-waste dump territory; the company itself has excised Schnatter from all of its ads and its stock prices fell 5 percent (worth $90 million in market value) the day the story broke.

But before we get into all that, let’s go back to his rationale for using a racial slur at work. That’s the excuse you’re going with, Papa John? That as a grown-ass man who heretofore was the CEO of a multimillion dollar publicly traded company—that somebody else made you do it?

On Friday afternoon, the self-identified Evangelical Christian and Republican donor said in an interview on WHAS, a Louisville radio station, that he was pressured to use the n-word during the conference call, as reported on earlier by The Root.

“The agency was promoting that vocabulary … They pushed me. And it upset me,” he told host Terry Meiners.


Schnatter went on to say he feels “sick” about what he said, and that “it’s wrong.”

“It’s caused a lot of grief for my community, for my university,” Schnatter added. “My employees are distraught, they’re crushed and it’s all because I was sloppy and I wasn’t as sensitive. It’s the same mistake I made on the NFL comments.”


Ah yes, the NFL comments. Schnatter had to step down as CEO in January when he said (again, publicly) that sales were down because of the national anthem protests started by former player Colin Kaepernick.

At that time, the NFL dumped Papa as a partner, and on Friday, dozens of other companies and organizations are leaving in droves and the company itself is scrubbing itself of Schnatter’s stench.


On Friday, Papa John’s said it would remove the 56-year-old executive’s likeness from its logo and promotional and marketing materials; additionally, Major League Baseball has discontinued its Papa Slam promotion with the chain, and at least 12 MLB teams—including the Yankees and Mets—dropped local sponsorships.


Schnatter’s hometown school, the University of Louisville, said it would remove Schnatter’s name from its football stadium (new name “Cardinal Stadium”) and CBS News reports that the University of Kentucky, which houses the “John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise,” will no longer be called that.

The mayor of Jeffersonville, Indiana, where Schnatter was born, returned a $400,000 donation from Schnatter to restore the Nachand Fieldhouse, a historic gym.


Even Morehouse got in on the action.


I would have respected Baby John more if he would have just apologized and went to saddown somewhere.

Seems to me he was so comfortable using the n-word, that he forgot he was in mixed company.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.


Not Enough Day Drinking

he was working with an agency that was “promoting that vocabulary.”

Well now I kinda want to see the ads they were going to run that included that vocabulary’