INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Papa John's CEO John Schnatter used the N-word on a conference call in May, according to Forbes.
Schnatter, a Hoosier and Ball State alumnus, was on a call with Papa John's executives and a marketing agency called Laundry Service as a role-playing exercise to prevent more issues with public relations when he allegedly said the N-word. Schnatter stepped down as CEO of Papa John's last year after he publicly criticized the NFL leadership over protests during the national anthem by football players.
During the conference call, Schnatter downplayed his previous statements, allegedly saying “Colonel Sanders called blacks n-----s,” claiming Sanders never faced public backlash, Forbes reported Wednesday.
Schnatter also discussed his Indiana upbringing in the conference call. He said people in Indiana used to "drag African-Americans from trucks until they died," Forbes reported. Multiple people on the conference call found his remarks offensive, and the owner of Laundry Service moved to terminate the company's relationship with Papa John's.
Schnatter released a statement to Forbes Wednesday afternoon, confirming the allegations.
"News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true," Schnatter said. "Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society."
Laundry Service declined to comment to Forbes, and Papa John's released the following statement:
“Papa John’s condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting. ... We take great pride in the diversity of the Papa John’s family, though diversity and inclusion is an area we will continue to strive to do better.”
Schnatter graduated from Ball State University in 1983 and was the university's commencement speaker in 2015. The Ball State Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise is named after Schnatter. He founded Papa John's in 1984.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Ball State released the following statement about the incident:
"We just received this information within the last few hours so it is premature for us comment on this specific incident involving John Schnatter. At Ball State, our alumni, faculty, staff, and students are committed to the Beneficence Pledge which encourages us 'to act in a socially responsible way' and 'pledge to value the intrinsic worth of every member of the community.'"
When asked on Thursday, a different spokesperson released the following statement:
"It is premature for us to comment or act upon the specific incident involving John Schnatter. At Ball State, our alumni, faculty, staff, and students are committed to the Beneficence Pledge which encourages us "to act in a socially responsible way" and "pledge to value the intrinsic worth of every member of the community."