The embattled founder and chairman of Papa John’s Pizza, John Schnatter, has resigned amid a backlash over his use of a racial slur in a conference call in May.
The company issued a brief statement on its website confirming Schnatter stepped down late Wednesday.
“Papa John’s International, Inc. today announced that the independent directors of the company have accepted the resignation of John H. Schnatter as Chairman of the Board.”
The statement also said the third largest pizza company in the U.S. will appoint a new chairman of the board “in the coming weeks.”
Schanatter has been embroiled in a public relations disaster since reports of his use of a racial slur during a company training call a few months ago surfaced.
He apologized Wednesday after admitting he did use the n-word during the call and said “racism has no place in our society.”
John Schnatter, the founder and ex-CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, has publicly apologized for using the N-word during a conference call in May.
He also resigned from the University of Louisville board of trustees, the university announced Wednesday.
Forbes reported Schnatter used the racial slur while participating in a role-playing exercise with a marketing company in May.
The conversation was meant to help train him for a public relations crisis.
“Colonel Sanders called blacks N---s,” Schnatter said.
The comment was an apparent attempt to downplay statements he made about NFL players kneeling in protest of racial injustice, in which he blamed the NFL for slowing sales of Papa John’s Pizza.
After making the statement, Schnatter went on to complain that Sanders never faced public backlash for using the N-word.
On Wednesday, Schnatter publicly apologized in a statement to CNN.
“News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true. Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society,” Schnatter said.
The marketing company, Laundry Service, declined to comment on Schnatter’s statement.
Forbes reported that Wasserman Media Group, Laundry Service’s parent company, moved to end its contract with Papa John's after the call.
Schnatter founded Papa John’s in 1984. He is the public face of the company and its largest shareholder, with a 29 percent share in the company. He stepped down as CEO but remains chairman of the company, CNN reports.
Papa John’s was the exclusive pizza sponsor of the NFL until the partnership ended earlier this year under new CEO, Steve Richie.
The company is the third largest pizza chain in the United States, behind Domino’s and Pizza Hut.