Schnatter says he shouldn't have resigned as Papa John's chairman
The Papa John's founder says in a letter obtained by WDRB that he gave into pressure without a fair investigation of the facts surrounding his use of racial language.
LOUISVILLE, Ky, (WDRB) – Papa John’s International founder John Schnatter told the pizza company’s other board members on Saturday that he regretted stepping down as the company’s chairman last week, saying he gave into pressure without a fair investigation the facts surrounding his admitted use of racial language on a private conference call in May.
“The Board asked me to step down as chairman without apparently doing any investigation. I agreed, though today I believe it was a mistake to do so,” Schnatter said in a letter dated July 14, a copy of which was obtained by WDRB News.
The letter was written in advance of a Sunday board meeting in which the directors took actions to further shun Schnatter, including canceling his contractual "founder" duties and evicting him from office space at the company’s corporate headquarters in Jeffersontown.
Some board members want Schnatter – who owns about 30 percent of the company’s stock – to leave the board altogether, Schnatter wrote in his letter. Schnatter’s Los Angeles-based attorney, Patty Glaser, wrote in letter on Sunday that the board “has no authority” to remove Schnatter.
The letters from Schnatter and his attorney were first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
A Papa John’s spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Schnatter resigned as chairman and quit the University of Louisville board of trustees last week after publicly apologizing for using the N-word during a media training with a marketing agency.
But in the July 14 letter, Schnatter attempts to place the comment in context.
He said it was prompted by questions from the agency, The Laundry Service, about whether Schnatter is a racist in light of his comments in November about NFL players’ national anthem protests.
“I then said something on the order of, Colonel Sanders used the word “N,” (I actually used the word,) that I would never use that word and Papa John’s doesn’t use that word,” Schnatter wrote. “…Let me be very clear: I never used the “N” word in that meeting as a racial epithet, nor would I ever.”
Schnatter said the discussion only started when he objected to the agency’s suggestion of hiring rapper Kanye West as brand spokesman because West “uses the “N”word in his lyrics.”
Schnatter also detailed what he called an “extortion attempt” by The Laundry Service, which he said the company fired, to get more money out of Papa John’s by claiming some of its employees were offended by Schnatter’s comment.
“(O)ne of their attorneys said they would conduct a smear campaign against the company and me unless we paid them what he was asking for,” Schnatter said in the letter. “Unfortunately, the company gave in to this extortion attempt and offered them $2.5 million or roughly $1.2 million more than they were owed.”
A spokeswoman for Laundry Service has previously declined to comment on the Schnatter incident and did not immediately respond to a second inquiry on Tuesday.
Read Schnatter's letter to the board:
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