The Papa John’s founder who was later forced out for saying the N-word took to the pages of the New York Post to cry that he was treated unfairly and to blast his namesake’s management as struggling without him.
“This management team needs to step up and change course — immediately — to revive our iconic American brand,” John Schnatter said in the editorial published Tuesday.
When Forbes reported that he also used the N-word during a conference call in May, Schnatter had already blamed falling pizza sales on NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against Black people.
Schnatter said in the op-ed that at the time a quarter of the company’s marketing budget was invested in the NFL and that as NFL viewership declined, so did “customers’ exposure to our marketing.”
“More controversy ensued months later, when an internal diversity training meeting was secretly taped and leaked to Forbes with a false narrative about a comment I made,” Schnatter said. “In the meeting, I expressed frustration over the NFL controversy and paraphrased someone who had purportedly used the n-word on a frequent basis.
“In fact, I was expressing my disdain for racism throughout the meeting, which was quite productive and demonstrated Papa John’s commitment to a diverse, positive and enriching environment,” Schnatter added.
In the editorial, the ousted restaurateur compared his use of the N-word to that of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo after he used the N-word last month to describe Italian immigrants on live radio.
“Pardon my language, but I’m just quoting the Times, n—-r wops, n-word wops,” Cuomo said.
The Democratic governor, whose parents are both of Italian descent, was reading the offensive language to reinforce a point articulated in Black editorial writer Brent Staples’ New York Times editorial headlined How Italians Became ‘White.’
Related: ‘Out Here Saying the N Word With the Hard R’: New York Governor Cuomo Blasted for Saying N-Word In Comparing Italian Struggle to Blacks
Cuomo later said his ancestors were often referred to as “n—-r wops.”
And although he was heavily criticized on social media initially for using the language, public outraged seemed to have fizzled out shortly afterward.
“Cuomo’s situation is in stark contrast to the irrational overreaction and internal exploitation of my comments,” Schnatter said. “The double standard is jarring.”
Schnatter said he should have gotten the same “benefit of doubt” Cuomo was given, but instead “unnamed sources reversed the meaning and intent of my words to damage me.”
“This has left the franchisees and the company to struggle without my leadership and brand expertise ever since,” he said.
“‘Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.’ isn’t just a slogan — it represents our core belief about the quality of our products,” Schnatter said.
Related: Shaquille O’Neal Wants to Bring Papa John’s to Every HBCU Campus
He added that comments from store managers, franchisees and employees have led him to believe “their morale is at an all-time low.”
“Some are taking out additional loans and putting off future plans as they tighten their belts based on the current performance of the company,” Schnatter said. “Franchisees tell me that banks are even hesitant to lend them money to buy and build more stores. This troubles me deeply.”
He laid most of the blame at the feet of the company’s leadership after admittedly opposing management’s budget proposal because he said “no one on the board and very few in executive leadership had any experience in the pizza industry.”
“They couldn’t possibly understand the steps necessary to correct this very complicated, struggling business as I had on a number of occasions in the past,” Schnatter said.
He cited as proof a jump in the company’s stock price under his leadership from $6.50 per share in 2008 to more than $87 per share in 2017.
“More important, what I’ve observed in the months since then is that the Papa John’s management may be emphasizing cost-cutting over product quality,” Schnatter said. “Even the pizzas don’t appear to be made the way that I made them just a few years ago.”
Some Facebook users agreed that the pizza hasn’t been the same, but they didn’t exactly credit Schnatter for making the difference.
“Yeah Johnny, you were back there in the kitchens making the pies,” Neal Johnson said Friday.
“Your pizza always sucked,” Londa Gardner Crenshaw said Thursday.
“Pappa Johns has not been the same pizza that they started with for at least a decade. It used to be the best,” Chris Wilmes said Thursday.
Other social media users discussed their thoughts of Schnatter defending use of the N-word.
They responded to a Baller Alert Twitter post dubbed “Papa John’s Founder John Schnatter Is Still Mad He Lost His Job For Using The N-Word.”
“And we still mad that he used it. 🤷🏾♂️,” tweeted @Cali_Bach Thursday.
“Stay mad with ya mad ass,” @LightItUpp_ tweeted Thursday.
“An example of being Rich and Stupid….” @thomasgunz tweeted Friday.