Papa John’s founder John Schnatter is now denying that he used the n-word during a call last May, despite apologizing for the comments in a statement released following his resignation from the company.
Schnatter filed a lawsuit in Delaware on Thursday to force his former company to disclose all documents related to its response to his use of the n-word. According to the documents, which TheWrap obtained, Schnatter stepped down for the “good of the company” but told the board that he “vehemently denies the veracity of the news reports.”
The lawsuit states that Schnatter is requesting the documents “because of the unexplained and heavy-handed way in which the company has treated him since the publication of a story that falsely accused him of using a racial slur.”
However, when Schnatter resigned from the company in May, he apologized for his behavior, saying, “News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true. Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”
According to Forbes, Schnatter was asked how he would distance himself from racist groups online and replied: “Colonel Sanders called blacks n—s.” Schnatter then complained that Sanders never faced public backlash, Forbes said. He also recalled his early life in Indiana, saying people there used to drag African-Americans from trucks until they died, according to Forbes.
He was reported to have made the racial slur during a role-playing call between Papa John’s executives and marketing agency Laundry Service. It was designed as an exercise for Schnatter to prevent a public-relations crisis — but clearly backfired.
The patriarch of the famous pizza chain stepped down as CEO of the company in December after months of turmoil following his criticism of the NFL over player protests, blaming them for low pizza sales. He later stepped as chairman of the company following backlash over his reported use of a racial slur.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.