Last week, John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s pizza chain, was forced to resign after it was leaked to the media that he used the N-word during a conference call in May. Telling his side of the story in an exclusive interview with WLKY News, Schnatter remained apologetic for using the word, but explained that the word was said as an example of racism and not in a derogatory fashion. He also said that he felt “provoked” into using the word and claimed the media agency on the conference call tried to blackmail him for $6 million over the incident, to which Schnatter replied, “I’m not for sale.”
“It doesn’t matter the context,” Schnatter told WLKY News. “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.”
Schnatter says marketing agency Laundry Service attempted to get them to partner with a third party, which has used the n-word.
“This other party used that word a lot,” explained the founder, adding, “By the fourth or fifth pass, I just said, ‘No, we’re not gonna be part of any such thing. So-and-so used the n-word, and we don’t use the n-word, and we’re not gonna use the n-word. And that’s it.’ So, we kind of shut that down quickly.”
According to a report from Forbes, during the conference call, Schnatter said “Colonel Sanders called blacks n*****s” and explained that Sanders did not receive similar backlash from the public. The media company was supposed to be helping Papa John’s with their public relations.
Two weeks after the call, Laundry Service “tried to extort us,” says Schnatter.
“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, Schnatter said.
The founder also hit the media for lying about the incident — something he said he expected — but noted that he was disappointed in local leaders for “caving.”
“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.”
“I don’t condone racism in any way. Period. It’s just wrong,” said Schnatter.