John Schnatter, AKA Papa John, made a pretty big PR mistake back in November of 2017 when he blamed his low pizza sales on NFL players protesting during the national anthem. The working theory was that protests were so controversial that many people were claiming to boycott the league that ratings—and thus pizza sales (??)—were declining. Over here in reality, where NFL ratings are doing relatively better than the overall trend of TV ratings across the board, Papa John's statement led to a righteous set of self-owns.
So, a PR team from marketing agency Laundry Service was tasked with helping Papa John get back in the limelight and help prevent him from making further mistakes. During a call in May, however, it seems that Papa John just jammed both of his shoes in his mouth. According to Forbes, Schnatter not only dropped the n-word, but also reminisced on the horrific past of racial violence in his home state.
On the May call, Schnatter was asked how he would distance himself from racist groups online. He responded by downplaying the significance of his NFL statement. “Colonel Sanders called blacks n-----s,” Schnatter allegedly said, before complaining that Sanders never faced public backlash.
Schnatter also reflected on his early life in Indiana, where, he said, people used to drag African-Americans from trucks until they died. He apparently intended for the remarks to convey his antipathy to racism, but multiple individuals on the call found them to be offensive, the source said. After learning about the incident, Laundry Service owner Casey Wasserman moved to terminate the company’s contract with Papa John’s.
Forbes reached out for a comment from Papa John's, and the company did not deny the incident, only issuing a statement full of platitudes about how racism is bad and how the company strives not to do racist things. Laundry Service since terminated their contract with Papa John's.
Despite the fact that Papa John's company shares fell 11 percent in just a few hours after his statements in November and have fallen to a total of 25 percent since, Papa John is still worth $700 million, according to Forbes. Rest assured: the bad people are still, ultimately, in power.
This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.