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Papa John's Chairman John Schnatter quits after coming under fire for racial slur

Papa John's Chairman John Schnatter quits after coming under fire for racial slur
Papa John's founder John Schnatter allegedly used a racial slur and graphic descriptions of violence against minorities on a May conference call. (Timothy D. Easley / Associated Press)

Papa John’s International Inc. Chairman John Schnatter resigned after coming under fire for making racist comments that battered the shares of the pizza chain he founded.

The independent directors of the company accepted Schnatter’s resignation, the Louisville, Ky., company said in a statement late Wednesday. Papa John’s will appoint a new chairman in the coming weeks, the company said.

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Just seven months after exiting the chief executive role over critical comments about the National Football League’s national anthem dispute, Schnatter came under pressure after a media report that he used a racial slur and graphic descriptions of violence against minorities on a May conference call with a media agency.

Schnatter admitted to using an offensive racial term during the call and apologized, according to a separate statement earlier Wednesday.

“News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true,” Schnatter said in the statement. “Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”

Papa John’s shares slumped 4.8% in New York on Wednesday, closing at the lowest level since February 2016. The stock has dropped almost 30% since Schnatter’s remarks about the NFL in November.

Schnatter apologized last year for remarks he made when he criticized the NFL for its handling of players’ national anthem protests, saying the comments hurt the pizza chain’s sales.

Forbes reported that the latest incident involving the chairman took place on a May call arranged between company executives and Laundry Service, a media agency, as a role-playing exercise for Schnatter to prevent future public relations missteps.

Laundry Service decided to cut ties after Schnatter’s behavior on the call, according to Forbes. Laundry Service didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Laundry Service, owned by sports agency owner Casey Wasserman, told staff in a May 31 letter that it would be ending its work with an unnamed client because of “the regrettable recent events that several employees of Laundry Service witnessed during interactions with a client’s executive,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by Bloomberg News.

11:12 p.m.: This article was updated with a report of Schnatter’s resignation and comments from Schnatter.

This article was originally published at 7:55 a.m.

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