Embattled pizza chain Papa John’s is back in the headlines, only this time for its efforts to help a historically Black women’s college on the brink of losing its accreditation.
On Thursday, Jan. 24, CEO Mark Ritchie announced the company would donate $500,000 to Bennett College of Greensboro, N.C., to help the historic institution avoid losing its accreditation status with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The donation will be the first gift made by the Papa John’s Foundation, which is set to formally launch in the next several weeks, according to a company spokesman.
“Bennett College, which has over a century-long legacy of preparing women of color to lead with purpose, integrity and a strong sense of self-worth, is one of the two existing women-only historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the U.S.,” the pizza chain said in a statement. “With more than ten franchises in the Greensboro area and our renewed commitment to doing better in the communities we serve, partnering with Bennett College to raise funds to protect the college’s accreditation status was a natural alignment.”
As reported by the Greensboro News & Record, Papa John’s announced in August that it would start a charitable foundation aimed at helping local communities after reports that company founder John Schnatter used the n-word during a media training conference last year. Backlash ensued and critics vowed to never buy another Papa John’s pizza.
Schnatter resigned as chairman but insisted his remarks were taken out of context. That didn’t stop the company from scrubbing his likeness from the pizza chain’s packaging and advertising.
“We shared last year that the values that would drive the transformation of Papa John’s would be equity, fairness, respect and opportunity,” the company’s statement continued. “We’re proud to support Bennett College, which not only shares these values but embodies them in their continual pursuit of inquiry, civic engagement, social justice, lifelong learning, and equity for all.”
Bennett College, which is looking to raise $5 million by Feb. 1 to retain its accreditation, sent out a tweet Thursday thanking the company for its generous donation. People lauded the pizza chain for its charitable efforts but said it still wasn’t enough to make them end their boycott after Schnatter’s racist remarks.
“This is great for the school. My issue still with Papa Johns is that John Schnatter is still making money off the company, right?” one person tweeted.
“Not all money is good money,” another critic chimed in.
One user noted the company was “trying to remove the stain of Schnatter’s reputation, [but] at what cost?”
Another called the $500,000 donation a “well-executed PR stunt.”
Despite the skepticism, Papa John’s said the company is serious about its commitment to #StandwithBennett. The push comes after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools threatened to revoke the college’s accreditation due to a lack of “financial resources.”
Bennett College has appealed the decision and, according to its website, has raised a little more than half of its fundraising goal.
The school remains accredited in the meantime.