*In an effort to repair his reputation, Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has announced plans to donate $1 million to the historically black Simmons College of Kentucky.
If you recall, Schnatter made headlines in 2017 when he said Papa John’s pizza sales were hurt by the NFL’s handling of players’ kneeling during the National Anthem in protest of racial injustice. That comment spawned white supremacists to declare the company their “official pizza,” and craft memes showing pics of its pizzas with pepperoni arranged to form swastikas.
On the call in May, with marketing agency Laundry Service, Schnatter was participating in a role-playing exercise designed to prevent public relations crises. According to Forbes, he sought to downplay the significance of his criticism of the league and its players.
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Today we announced a $1M gift and long term partnership from John Schnatter @SCKY_1879 ! After the press conference, we went straight to Louisiana to work on Dr. @ssamtolbert’s Church! pic.twitter.com/7LmSesIDst
— Kevin W Cosby (@KWCosby) September 4, 2019
“Colonel Sanders called blacks n—–s,” he said, complaining that Sanders had never received backlash, according to Forbes.
Forbes also reported that Schnatter recalled growing up in Indiana, where he said people used to drag black people from their trucks until they died.
Schnatter was ultimately ousted from the company he founded over his controversial remarks. As noted by Complex, he also “relinquished his position at the University of Louisville Board of Trustees amid pressure from the NAACP.”
But that hasn’t stopped him from “making an importance difference.”
“John is making and will continue to make an important difference,” Rev. Kevin Cosby, president of Simmons College of Kentucky, said in a statement, per the Louisville Courier-Journal. “His support will have a profound impact on Simmons’ capacity to serve our city, state and nation.”
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Dr. Cosby and Dr. Tolbert to learn about the important work they are doing in our community,” Schnatter said in a statement of his own. “I’m proud to support their efforts to help lift up those who want to better their own lives and the lives of those around them.”
Papa John’s headquarters are located in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, which explains his ties to Simmons College.
Less than a week after his resignation, Schnatter claimed he was pressured by the marketing agency on the call to use the racial slur.
“The agency was promoting that vocabulary […] And I made it real clear: ‘Listen, we’re not gonna go there. We’re not gonna talk about this,'” Schnatter said during an interview with Louisville radio station WHAS. “They pushed me and it upset me, and I just said, ‘Listen, other people have used that word. I don’t, and will not use that word and people at Papa John’s don’t use that.’ And that was the comment. But they actually wanted to get into that vocabulary, and I said absolutely not.”