Papa John’s Panic: Can Pizza Be Racist?

Pizza
I don't care... i'm ordering Papa Johns tonight.

They finally got Papa John, folks.

Papa John’s Pizza’s founder John Schnatter is a noted conservative donor and an advocate for free markets and limited government.

And now the lefties have finally managed to knock him off his pizza-powered perch, using claims that he used a racist slur in a conference call to force his resignation from the board of Papa John’s.

But Papa Schnatter still owns about 30 percent of Papa John’s. As of March 12, his share of the business was worth $622 million, though a recent decline in the company’s stock price now values it at $479 million as of the close of trading on Wednesday. (Amazing what one racist slur can do. Although, to be totally objective about it, Papa John’s pizza has struggled to compete with competitors that offer pizza at lower prices that often tastes just as good.)

Other major stockholders in Papa John’s include asset management firm BlackRock, with a 9 percent stake; hedge fund Eminence Capital (6.5 percent); and investment adviser Vanguard (6 percent). That should give you some idea just how much influence Schnatter will maintain within the company.

Schnatter resigned as chairman on Wednesday amid a growing uproar about his comments, but he will remain on the board. Papa John’s shares, which fell almost 5 percent on Wednesday, but they were back up by 12 percent again on Thursday.

Schnatter has been the face of his company for decades. His TV commercials, and his slogan of “better ingredients, better pizza, Papa John’s” drove business to his restaurants and made Papa a millionaire.

But recently stories came out that Papa John had used a racial slur during a May conference call, and also described violence against minorities in a way that disturbed the other people on the call. Eventually Schnatter came clean about the situation.

“News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media-training session regarding race are true,” Schnatter said in a statement released Wednesday by the company.

“Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society,” Schnatter’s statement said.

According to reports published in Forbes, Papa Johns comments were so out-there and disturbing that the media-training company that was contracted to run the training decided to end its business relationship with the pizza company after the call in question.

Forbes reported that the creepy behavior in question took place on a conference call intended as a role-playing exercise for Schnatter, to help him avoid racially charged mishaps in the future.

But, uh, that backfired pretty spectacularly, cuz Papa got a little too into it.

On the May call, Schnatter reportedly said the N-word while complaining that another fast-food founder had used the word in the past and gotten away with it. “Colonel Sanders called blacks ni**ers,” Papa complained.

Papa also reflected on his childhood in Indiana, saying that people used to drag African-Americans from trucks until they died. Apparently he thought that relaying these stories was some kind of show of solidarity with black people, but uh, that’s not really how it comes off.

The Forbes report prompted protest from the Louisville NAACP, which said Schnatter should either step down or be removed from the University of Louisville’s board of trustees by the city’s NAACP.

Schnatter quickly did from the board he’d served on for two years. The board chairman, J. David Grissom announced the resignation in a statement which also thanked the executive for his “generous” support.

“After speaking with John, I’m confident that his comments, while inappropriate, do not reflect his personal beliefs or values,” said Grissom, who added the board did not condone “racism or insensitive language regardless of the setting.”

So, the liberals finally got to Papa John.

They’ll be trying to lure the Koch brothers into “racial sensitivity conference calls” next.