The Drum Awards for Agency Business 2022

Live in -h -min -sec

Modern Marketing Public Relations News

Papa John’s founder apologizes for saying N-word during call with creative agency


By Minda Smiley | Reporter

July 11, 2018 | 3 min read

Sponsored by:

What's this?

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has found himself in hot water once again: the company’s former chief executive apologized on Wednesday for using the N-word during a conference call in May.

John Schnatter

John Schnatter

According to Forbes, Schnatter – who stepped down from his role as chief executive late last year but still remains chairman of the board – said the word during a call that was arranged between Papa John’s executives and Laundry Service, which was named the pizza chain’s creative agency in October.

Forbes says the calls was set up to help Schnatter “prevent future public-relations snafus” after he received backlash last year for criticizing the NFL’s handling of national anthem protests by players, stating that the league’s “poor leadership” hurt sales at the chain. He was replaced a month later by Steve Ritchie, who stepped into the role after serving as chief operating officer.

When asked during the call with Laundry Service how he would distance himself from racist groups online, Forbes says Schnatter “responded by downplaying the significance of his NFL statement” and said that KFC’s Colonel Sanders “called blacks n-----s” without facing public backlash.

In a statement issued by Papa John's, Schnatter said: “News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true. Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”

Forbes reports that Laundry Service and Papa John's are no longer working together due to the incident. Wasserman, Laundry Service’s parent company, told The Drum it has “no comment” on the matter.

Modern Marketing Public Relations News

Content created with:

Papa John's

Find out more

More from Modern Marketing

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +