"Racism has no place in our society," former CEO John Schnatter said.
Papa John’s founder John Schnatter is under fire after he used the n-word on a conference call in May.
Forbes reported that the former face of the pizza chain used the racial slur during a call between Papa John’s executives and a marketing agency called Laundry Service.
In November 2017, Schnatter faced backlash after he blamed Papa John’s’ sales decline on the NFL national anthem protests while on an annual earnings call—and the most recent call in May was designed as an exercise meant to prevent similar PR nightmares in the future.
According to Forbes, Schnatter, who stepped down as Papa John’s CEO in December 2017, tried to soften the blow of his comments about the NFL protests when asked how he would distance himself from racist groups online. “Colonel Sanders called blacks n—–s,” Schnatter allegedly said on the call.
Then, the pizza chain’s founder continued to discuss how Colonel Sanders never faced repercussions for his rhetoric, and detailed his experiences growing up in Indiana, where, according to Forbes he said that people used to drag African-Americans behind trucks until they died. The publication reports that Schnatter said he made those remarks to prove he wasn’t racist, but many members on the conference call deemed his comments offensive and Laundry Service subsequently ended their contract with Papa John’s.
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In a statement issued through Papa John’s to Forbes, Schnatter did not deny the allegations. “News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true,” he said. “Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”
A representative for Papa John’s did not immediately respond to PEOPLE for comment.