NEW YORK — Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has resigned as chairman of the pizza chain’s board after reportedly using a racial slur, though his image remains on the company’s logo.
The company made the announcement late Wednesday, hours after Schnatter apologized for using a racial slur during a conference call in May. Schnatter, who has appeared in TV ads for the pizza chain, still owns about 30 percent of the company’s shares.
Forbes reported that Schnatter used the N-word during a media training exercise. When asked how he would distance himself from racist groups, Schnatter reportedly complained that Colonel Sanders never faced a backlash for using the word. The incident prompted Papa John’s marketing firm to break ties with the company, Forbes said.
In a statement released by Louisville, Kentucky-based Papa John’s, Schnatter said reports attributing use of “inappropriate and hurtful” language to him were true.
“Regardless of the context, I apologize,” the statement says.
The University of Louisville also said Wednesday that Schnatter resigned from its board of trustees, effective immediately.
Schnatter had already stepped down as CEO of Papa John’s last year after blaming slowing sales growth on the outcry surrounding football players kneeling during the national anthem. For the first three months of this year, the chain earlier reported that a key sales figure fell 5.3 percent in North America.
The company had noted in a previous regulatory filing that its business could be harmed if Schnatter’s reputation were negatively impacted. As of Thursday morning, Schnatter’s image remained on Papa John’s website.
Schnatter’s departure comes after Netflix last month fired its top spokesman over use of the N-word. Netflix said Jonathan Friedland used the word in a meeting of public relations staff about sensitive words. Several people told Friedland how inappropriate and hurtful his use of the word was.
Friedland, who is white, later repeated the word with human resources staff trying to address the original incident, Netflix said.
Papa John’s began operations in 1984 and had more than 5,200 locations globally. The company’s shares were up 4 percent Thursday morning after the company announced Schnatter’s departure.