Crisis management is big business.
So it comes as no surprise that after its founder and figurehead John Schnatter got eviscerated for blaming the NFL protests for his company’s diminishing sales, only to get the boot later for dropping the n-word during a sensitivity training call, that nary a black household in the United States of Trump’s Government Shutdown wants anything to do with Papa Johns or their wretched Play Doh pizza.
Which is exactly why it comes as no surprise that in an effort to mend that bridge, the company’s charitable arm is donating the “largest gift that has been contributed” to embattled HBCU Bennett College.
In December, the historically black women’s college—one of only two in the country—lost its accreditation due to its financial instability. In response, the school launched a fundraising campaign in which both celebrities and alumnae have joined in the fight to keep the school open. But with $5 million to raise by February 1, it’s been an uphill battle. However, with Papa John’s donation, the Greensboro, North Carolina college has reached 45% of its goal.
“We’re grateful and excited that The Papa John’s Foundation is choosing to support the protection of our College’s legacy as well as reignite the conversation around the importance of supporting diverse institutions around the country,” said Bennett President Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins. “Together, we hope to champion the continuing development of young women of color across the country.”
But is this a purely a PR move or are the intentions of new CEO Steve Ritchie pure?
“Papa John’s has supported educational institutions of all levels for years and we are a proud partner to many colleges across the country. That legacy continues through The Papa John’s Foundation’s support of Bennett College,” said Ritchie in a statement. “In August 2018, I committed to establishing a corporate foundation, and I’m pleased that its first grant will go to an institution that shares our values of equity, fairness, respect and opportunity.”
Victoria Russell, Papa John’s Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer also added, “This campaign is about more than giving dollars; it’s about helping Bennett College continue educating the next generation of black female leaders. We’re thrilled to provide this support towards Bennett’s fundraising goal and encourage others to do the same.”
While skepticism is undoubtably warranted, the fact remains that with less than a week to raise the remaining sum, Bennet College is not in a position to decline such a substantial donation. Hopefully this is the first of many steps Papa John’s new regime makes to rectify its problematic (and Play Doh-favored) past.
But for those interested in contributing to Bennett College’s fundraiser, here are some ways for you to do so:
Text2Give: Text the word BELLES to the number 444999
Cash App: $StandwithBennett
Mail: Send a check to Bennett College, Office of Institutional Advancement, 900 E. Washington St., Greensboro, N.C. 27401