Embattled Papa John's Pizza founder John Schnatter has found few friends willing to publicly stand by his side during the past few weeks.
That is, until Friday, when the Ball State University Board of Trustees announced they would “continue our support of the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.”
“While we recognize that some will disagree with our position on this particular matter, we hope all will share in the Board’s unwavering commitment to a diverse and welcoming campus,” wrote Rick Hall, Board of Trustees chair.
Schnatter, a Jeffersonville native and 1983 Ball State graduate, resigned from his positions as Papa John's Pizza board chairman and University of Louisville Board of Trustees member on July 11 after Forbes' Noah Kirsch reported he had used a racial slur during a conference call in May.
“Colonel Sanders called blacks n-----s,” Schnatter said, before complaining that Sanders never faced public backlash, reported Kirsch.
The conference call had been arranged with marketing agency Laundry Service in the wake of another controversial statement by Schnatter last year.
In November, during another conference call, this time with investors, Schnatter said the National Football League's ongoing anthem protests by some players was hurting sales.
“We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this,” said Schnatter.
The following month, Schnatter stepped down as CEO. And, in February, the NFL changed its official pizza sponsor from Papa John's Pizza to Pizza Hut.
Unlike Ball State, Papa John's Pizza and U of L have sought to publicly distance themselves from Schnatter since the scandal broke. U of L announced the name of their football stadium would change from Papa John's Cardinal Stadium to just Cardinal Stadium. Papa John's Pizza quickly moved to remove Schnatter's image from their future advertising and marketing materials.
Schnatter and the Charles Koch Foundation's $3.25 million in funding for the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise, housed in the Whitinger Business Building, was first announced March 2, 2016.
“The grant will help the university fund four tenure-track professorships, an operations manager, two graduate assistants, an Entrepreneurial Learning Academy and Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy, the Entrepreneurship Center, and other educational and research activities in the Institute and the university’s Department of Economics,” stated a press release at the time.
Here is the entire statement released Friday by Hall:
August 3, 2018
To the Ball State Community:
Ball State alumnus, John Schnatter, has been the subject of media reports regarding his comments in a private meeting in May. As a result, the Board of Trustees has been asked whether his name will be removed from the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.
Higher education plays a unique role in the support of free speech and the exchange of ideas that lead to better understanding. In that pursuit, it does not mandate perfection. The language used by John was insensitive and painful to others, making a review of context appropriate.
To such end, we have the following understanding of John’s comments. They were made in a private meeting with consultants, from which he was seeking advice as to how to communicate in a way that would be less offensive to others. In the course of the conversation, he recited his understanding of another’s use of the “N word”. He did so not in a derogatory manner seeking to demean any individuals or groups; rather it was used as an example of improper conduct.
John has acknowledged, notwithstanding his intentions, that his use of the word was inappropriate. His response was to promptly issue an apology and unequivocally denounce racism. He has reaffirmed those views to us personally, and such sentiment is consistent with Ball State’s values.
In our experience with John, he has never expressed racist views. He has demonstrated himself to be an individual who is very appreciative of his fortunate situation and cares deeply about creating an environment in which all enterprising individuals have the opportunity to succeed.
With such perspective, John has generously shared his blessings through his contributions to universities and other philanthropic activities.
Based on our current understanding of what transpired, John’s response to the current situation, and our experience with him, the Board will continue our support of the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.
While we recognize that some will disagree with our position on this particular matter, we hope all will share in the Board’s unwavering commitment to a diverse and welcoming campus.
Through our continued work together, Ball State can advance a sense of community that is so essential to the creation of a stronger Indiana and a healthier society.