LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Papa John’s International and Simmons College of Kentucky each say the other is responsible for the breakdown of an agreement by the pizza company to give the historically black college in Louisville $20,000 for scholarships.
Whoever is responsible, the decision appears to be related to the disclosure that Papa John’s founder John Schnatter agreed to give $1 million to the college and an affiliated group of black Baptist churches. Schnatter became estranged from the company last year after admitting the use of racial language.
On Sept. 3, the day before Schnatter appeared at Simmons to announce the $1 million gift, a Simmons official notified Papa John’s that the college wouldn’t accept the $20,000 from the company.
“In light of recent news, it is best to decline your scholarships at this time and perhaps look at other ways to partner in the future,” Von Purdy, Simmons College’s director of development, said in a Sept. 3 email.
But speaking to reporters on Friday, Purdy said Papa John’s chief of diversity and inclusion, Victoria Russell, requested that Simmons formally decline the scholarships once the news of Schnatter’s large donation broke.
Purdy said she complied with Russell’s request in hopes of maintaining a relationship with Papa John’s and keeping the $20,000 “on the table.”
“It was directed by Victoria. She wanted me to put something in language to that effect,” Purdy said.
Papa John’s said it’s “absolutely false” that the company rescinded the scholarships, which it had originally agreed to provide on Aug. 8.
“We were disappointed when the administration of Simmons College unexpectedly told us last week they would not move forward with the scholarship program we had offered in good faith,” a company spokeswoman said.
Papa John’s didn’t specifically comment on Purdy’s account of the conversation with Russell.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Schnatter said the pizza mogul had “no involvement with regards to the Papa John’s scholarships to Simmons College, and only learned about those scholarships two days ago.”
The $20,000 was to be used for 10 scholarships of $2,000 apiece, according to Papa John's.