LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Papa John's CEO Steve Ritchie sent an email to customers Sunday, apologizing for the week that saw the founder John Schnatter resign from the company's board as well as the University of Louisville board of trustees.

"This past week was the hardest week in my 22 years with Papa John's," Ritchie wrote. "I know the words of John Schnatter were offensive, and nothing pains me more than knowing they hurt you. To be clear, those words in no way represent my views or the values of our company. As the leader of Papa John's, I'm sorry."

Schnatter's quick retreat from his prominent positions was prompted by a Forbes story that said Schnatter used the N-word during a discussion about public relations with the company's outside marketing agency.

Schnatter acknowledged the truth of the account on Wednesday and apologized in a statement issued by the company.

On Friday, U of L announced it will remove the Papa John's name from its football stadium, immediately changing it to "Cardinal Stadium."

Papa John's stock took a dive in the wake of the controversy, only to rebound sharply with news of Schnatter's departure from the company's board.

Here is Ritchie's full letter:

This past week was the hardest week in my 22 years with Papa John's. I know the words of John Schnatter were offensive, and nothing pains me more than knowing they hurt you. To be clear, those words in no way represent my views or the values of our company. As the leader of Papa John's, I'm sorry.

Racism and insensitive language - no matter the context - will not be tolerated at any level of our company. Period.

Papa John's is not an individual. Papa John's is a pizza company with 120,000 corporate and franchise team members around the world. These are the people in your communities from all walks of life who work hard to provide you with better service and better pizza. These are your local owners and operators who do so much in your community.

Still, you deserve actions, not just words, so here's what we're going to do about it:

  • We're in the process of bringing in outside experts to help audit our company's culture and diversity and inclusion practices. This will allow us to identify our strengths and weaknesses. We will then set clear goals to do better.
  • Our senior management team will be on the road, listening to our employees and franchisees and getting their feedback on a path to move forward.
  • We'll be transparent with you along the way. We want you to hold us accountable.

I will personally be leading this effort because there is nothing more important for Papa John's right now. We want to regain your trust, and we will work hard to earn it. I know this will take time.

The entire team at Papa John's wants to thank you for your loyalty. We are only in business because of you. And it's our sincere wish that we'll continue to have the honor of serving you.

Sincerely, 

Steve Ritchie CEO, Papa John's

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