A major shakeup has happened at Papa John’s. John Schnatter, the company’s CEO and founder, will leave his post after his disparaging comments about the NFL and of its players’ national anthem protests in November, NPR reported. The company’s chief operating officer, Steve Ritchie will replace Schnatter on January 1, but he will still remain chairman of the board.
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Schnatter’s remarks set off a firestorm of racism accusations last month. The 56-year-old businessman came under major condemnation after he said Papa John’s, an NFL sponsor and advertiser, had been “hurt” by the “take a knee” protest led by Black players that raised awareness about police brutality. “And more importantly, by not resolving the current debacle to the player and owners’ satisfaction, NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders,” Schnatter said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call on November 1. “Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership.”
“This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago,” Schnatter also said about the anthem protests, CNN reported. “The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country.” After Schnatter’s comments, white supremacists vowed to make Papa John’s the official pizza of the so-called alt-right.
Papa John’s replied to the backlash in a statement: “We condemn racism in all forms and any and all hate groups that support it. … We do not want these individuals or groups to buy our pizza.” The pizza chain also pulled several of its planned commercials from NFL games. The league had promised to provide the pizza company with future spots, Schnatter had said.
The incident with Schnatter highlights other examples of racism haunting Papa John’s and other pizza delivery companies. Two delivery drivers were fired from a Florida store part of the pizza chain for a racist voicemail about Black customers not tipping in 2013.