University of Louisville to rename Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Louisville has renamed Papa John's Cardinal Stadium "Cardinal Stadium," the latest in the fallout since Papa John's International Founder John Schnatter admitted on Wednesday that he used a racial slur during a business conference call in May.
U of L President Neeli Bendapudi said she decided to rename the stadium and also to remove Schnatter’s name from the Center for Free Enterprise that Schnatter helped establish at U of L’s College of Business in 2015 with a $4.6 million donation.
“By taking this action, we renew our community’s commitment to speaking up when it matters, doing what is right and coming together as one team … to heal and move forward,” Bendapudi said at a press conference Friday.
She said Schnatter’s “hurtful and unacceptable” comments had “fractured the community.”
On Wednesday, Schnatter acknowledged the truth of a Forbes story that said he used the N-word during a discussion about public relations with the company's outside marketing agency in May.
Schnatter then resigned as chairman of the company and from his seat on the University of Louisville's governing board.
Although Schnatter has always been synonymous with the company's brand, Papa John's will stop using his image in advertisements, the Associated Press reported Friday.
Built in the late 1990s, the football stadium was financed with $20 million in donations from Schnatter and his company – $14 million in personal gifts and $6 million from Papa John’s International, according to a pair of naming rights agreements and extensions obtained by WDRB.
The deals last through 2040 and include no "morals" clauses that would allow the university to change the stadium's over Schnatter's objection in light of his comments and negative publicity.
“We understand that this comes with certain consequences and we have examined all of those, and this is our best decision to move forward,” Bendapudi said.
Bendapudi said Schnatter was apologetic in a conversation they had recently and that he was “very supportive” of taking his name off the Center for Free Enterprise.
Bendapudi did not comment on Schnatter’s reaction to the stadium being renamed. She said her conversation with Schnatter “was to share that we had made the decision.”
Asked whether she was daring the company to sue over the name change, Bendapudi said, “It’s not that type of situation at all.”
She said she talked to Papa John’s CEO Steve Ritchie and company board members. “They are very good to work with us because the company… is committed to diversity,” she said.
A Papa John’s spokesman sent a statement from Ritchie pledging to evaluate the company's culture and strengthen its commitment to diversity, but the statement did not address the football stadium renaming.
Bendapudi said she wants to separate the company and the 120,000 people it employs from Schnatter. But even though it’s the company’s name on the stadium, “It is a feeling at this time that there is too much hurt around it, and the company understands it’s a difficult decision.”
Bendapudi said the university has no immediate plan to find a new sponsor for the stadium.