John Schnatter, Papa John's founder and former CEO, officially resigned his position as chairman of the board on Wednesday. The news came hours after Schnatter acknowledged the use of a racial slur during a May conference call and offered a public apology. Media reports indicate that Schnatter was also accused of graphically describing violence against minorities.
"News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media-training session regarding race are true," Schnatter said in a statement released Wednesday by the company. "Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society."
The relationship with the media-training firm retained by Papa John's ended abruptly after the call, according to reporting in Forbes. Ironically, it seems the objectionable language used by Schnatter occurred during a role-playing training exercise that was designed to help the at-times controversial chairman refrain from making statements that could be taken as racially insensitive.
This controversy comes about seven months after Schnatter relinquished his CEO role after criticizing National Football League players for kneeling during the national anthem, blaming the outcry surrounding their protests for slowing sales growth at Papa John's, at the time an NFL sponsor and advertiser.
In a separate statement, Papa John's offered no direct response to Schnatter, but did strongly affirm their commitment to diversity.
“Papa John’s condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting … We take great pride in the diversity of the Papa John’s family, though diversity and inclusion is an area [in which] we will continue to strive to do better,” the company said in a separate statement.
Shares of Papa John's Pizza fell nearly 6 percent after the reports emerged, and ended Wednesday trading down 4.8 percent.