It all started towards the end of last year, when the pizza chain's then-CEO John Schnatter blamed slumping sales on the National Football League protests against police brutality and racial injustice in this country, a move that scored him fans in the alt-right (Papa John's was the official National Football League pizza sponsor until February of this year.) Schnatter then stepped down as the company's CEO, but remained the head of the board and the public face of the company.
"Over the last 24 hours our community has been fractured by the comments made by former UofL trustee John Schnatter", Bendapudi said in a news conference Friday afternoon. He apologized to her, adding that he didn't want to be a "distraction", she said.
Papa John's latest controversy has begun to cost the brand relationships with baseball teams across the majors.
The company probably doesn't need a new name, though. The university's president said the school will evaluate the naming arrangement for Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, but noted that the matter involved contractual agreements, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. Schnatter resigned as the chairman of the board of his company on Wednesday.
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While many have put their relationships with the brand on hold, there were a few teams across the league that chose to maintain their deals with Papa John's, disavowing Schnatter's comments and praising the brand for its swift action, while cited long-running partnerships with local store owners and operators who shared their values. The University of Louisville also said Wednesday that Schnatter resigned from its board of trustees, effective immediately. The firm's name is not expected to change. There is no clear recourse named in the contract that would allow the university to break the contract should a scandal like this happen.
"We understand that this comes with certain consequences and we have examined all of those, and this is our best decision to move forward", Bendapudi said.
The situation illustrates the difficulty when companies are closely tied to a single person, and that Papa John's may need to publicly distance itself further from Schnatter after dealing with backlashes brought about by his comments.
A slice of cheese pizza at a Papa John's pizza shop in Quincy, Mass. The marketing agency proceeded to drop Papa John's as a client, even at significant financial cost, according to Forbes.