Papa John's Founder John Schnatter Calls Resignation a 'Mistake'

Papa John's founder John Schnatter regrets his decision to resign from the restaurant chain, he wrote in a letter to the company board.

Schnatter has had a terrible streak when it comes to public statements lately, but he is apparently still not ready to call it quits. His letter to the board was reported on by The Wall Street Journal. In it, he reportedly fumed at the other stockholders for pressuring him to quit without looking for a way to back him up.

Schnatter asserted that the board of directors "asked me to step down as chairman without apparently doing any investigation. I agreed, though today I believe it was a mistake to do so."

Schnatter's letter was dated on Saturday, a mere three days after reports surfaced that he had used the n-word and other racist language in a conference call with a marketing firm. The remarks were first reported by Forbes on Wednesday. He then stepped down as the company's chairman, having already given up his title of CEO back in December.

"I will not allow either my good name or the good name of the company I founded and love to be unfairly tainted," he vowed in Saturday's letter.

Schnatter was already in trouble when he entered the conference call. In the fall, he condemned the kneeling protests at NFL football games, of which Papa John's was the official pizza sponsor. After giving up control as CEO, he was hoping public relations experts could help him get his public image back on course, and allow him to remain the iconic smiling figure in his company's ad campaigns.

"Colonel Sanders called blacks n—," he reportedly said on the call, hoping to minimize the hurtfulness of his own earlier comments. He also recalled in graphic detail how African-Americans had been dragged behind trucks until they died in his home town back in Indiana.

Still, after Wednesday's report he still did not feel he was being treated fairly. He gave an interview with San Francisco's KRON 4, going so far as to say that he was being "extorted" by the ad agency. He claimed the company had asked him for $6 million in exchange for keeping his remarks private, but that he had refused.


"So, yeah they tried to extort us and we held firm. They took what I said and they ran to Forbes and Forbes printed it and it went viral," he said.

"The agency was promoting that vocabulary … They pushed me. And it upset me," he went on. "It's caused a lot of grief for my community, for my university. My employees are distraught, they're crushed, and it's all because I was sloppy and I wasn't as sensitive. It's the same mistake I made on the NFL comments."