Letters to the Editor: Papa John’s founder: ‘Never a whiff of bias or prejudice in my comments’

Papa John's in Los Angeles
Josslyn Young at her Papa John’s franchise in Los Angeles on Dec. 14, 2019.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: In Sandy Banks’ recent column about me and the company I founded, she wrongly says I “launched a tirade” about the NFL protests in November 2017. In fact, I criticized the handling of it by the NFL management and not the actual protests when I said that the NFL needed to resolve “the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction.” Since we were the NFL’s most recognized sponsor and our sales were declining, we needed the issue to be resolved with respect for all parties. There was never a whiff of bias or prejudice in my comments.

Second, in the conference call Banks references, throughout the meeting I expressed my complete disdain for racism. I also reflected on my own experience growing up in Jeffersonville, Ind., and the tragic mistreatment of African Americans I witnessed. In the leaked, secret recording of my comments, I paraphrased a third party, noting my disgust for use of the N-word, and added that “I never used the word” myself. My pending lawsuit in the matter addresses the circumstances surrounding the total mischaracterization of my comments in that meeting.

Not only did Papa John’s fail to deliver a “textbook-perfect corporate response,” it also exploited these false claims of racism to oust me from the company. It ignored the fact that under my leadership we grew Papa John’s as a diverse and inclusive workplace, evidenced in part by the fact we had been selected one of the best places to work in Kentucky for five consecutive years until my departure as CEO in 2017.


While Banks and others may want to now connect the dots between the exploitation of my comments in the past to the financial suffering of franchisees, they could not be more wrong. Today, stores are struggling because of bad corporate management. Yet, as reflected in their quotes in Banks’ column, company leaders such as Chief Executive Rob Lynch still exploit debunked claims of racism against me to avoid responsibility for their poor decisions, such as cutting costs that compromise the product, relying too much on subsidizing franchisees, and terminating valuable corporate employees.

I respect Banks for her passion and defense of local business owners and the black community in Los Angeles. For years, I have empowered minority business owners, schools and churches, and will continue to do so because I believe in supporting the success of everyone in my community.

John H. Schnatter, Louisville, Ky.

The writer is the founder of Papa John’s.