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Ousted Papa John’s Founder Says He Was Set Up, Smeared As Racist: ‘Day Of Reckoning Will Come’
John H. Schnatter, Founder, Chairman & CEO of Papa John's International, Inc. rings the NASDAQ Opening Bell at NASDAQ MarketSite on January 31, 2014 in New York City.
Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images

In an interview published Tuesday, Papa John’s founder John Schnatter told WDRB that he has been wrongly smeared as a racist, which untimely led to his ouster at the company in July 2018. A fiery Schnatter warned those who’ve supposedly wronged him that “a day of reckoning” is on the way, and that the truth will soon be made clear.

The Papa John’s founder was accused of using the N-word during a conference call concerning public relations strategies in combatting racial controversies. According to a report from Forbes, Schnatter said, “Colonel Sanders called blacks n*****s” and explained that Sanders did not receive similar backlash from the public.

The businessman claimed he used the word to illustrate the racism of a third party (apparently KFC), which marketing agency Laundry Service suggested the company partner with. Laundry Service, Schnatter said, attempted to blackmail the founder for $6 million weeks later over the recorded conference call. Soon after he told the company he was “not for sale,” Schnatter found himself in the throes of controversy, which ended in his forced resignation.

“I never dreamed that people that I care about, that I love, that I made multimillionaires, would do what they did,” Schnatter told WDRB, according to The Washington Post. “Shame on them.”

Schnatter also “claimed that his former friend and handpicked replacement, Steve Ritchie, and members of the company’s board of directors ‘used the black community and race’ to ‘steal’ the company from him,” the Post noted. “He said board member Olivia Kirtley and former board member Mark Shapiro ‘should be in jail,’ and criticized Rob Lynch, former president of Arby’s who now serves as chief executive of Papa John’s.”

“They stole the company, and now they’ve destroyed the company,” Schnatter said.

“The day of reckoning will come,” the founder warned. “The record will be straight.”

During the interview, Schnatter claimed he’s been eating a lot of pizza and has determined that Papa John’s pies are not as good as they were under his guidance.

“I’ve had over 40 pizzas in the last 30 days, and it’s not the same pizza,” the 58-year-old said. “It’s not the same product. It just doesn’t taste as good.”

As reported by The Daily Wire last summer, Schnatter told WLKY News that he was apologetic for using the N-word, adding that he felt “provoked” by Laundry Service.

“It doesn’t matter the context,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that word hurts people. It was a strategy session, it was training. … I was just repeating what somebody else said. I was actually kind of provoked a little bit.”

“I don’t condone racism in any way. Period. It’s just wrong,” Schnatter emphasized.

Laundry Service “tried to extort us,” the founder recalled. “They wanted 6 million dollars to make it go away. … The words were, ‘If I don’t get my effing money, I’m gonna bury the founder,’ said one of the executives. I’m not for sale.”

The company then “ran to Forbes” and the story went viral, he said.

“You know Forbes is gonna lie. You know The Courier is gonna lie,” he said. “But you think there would be something solid in these leaders and embrace what really went down.”

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