I wonder how many people hear the name John Schnatter and think “now that’s Italian!” Nevertheless, the owner of that name who goes by the more familiar “Papa John” is the proprietor of the fourth largest pizza restaurant chain in America, and as a 30 percent shareholder in the company is worth at least $600 million.
Some years ago, presuming that those who like to watch football might also be inclined to consume pizza (regardless of its resemblance to cardboard), Papa John embarked on a close sponsorship relationship with the NFL, and recruited former star quarterback Peyton Manning to appear in TV commercials as himself. Papa was there too in all his oily splendor pitching his pies.
After one-time San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick popularized the silent “take a knee” protest during the playing of the national anthem – and Draft Dodger-in-Chief Trump maligned the spectacle to divert attention from whatever asshole shit he was doing at the time – fan interest in watching NFL games began to tail off. By putting all his pepperoni chips on the NFL, Papa suddenly felt vulnerable. Furthermore, he was placed in the unfortunate position of having to take sides between the players’ right to protest and the “patriots” who make up a big portion of the pizza-eating, football-loving fan base.
As Schnatter was already on record trashing Obamacare for adding 14 cents to the price of a pizza – something he would rather fight than accommodate for the betterment of his employees’ health – it’s probably not hard to figure out where he stands on certain types of people kneeling during the anthem.
(Sidebar: While the NFL continues to fumble their accommodations of the national anthem conundrum, why not just stop playing it altogether? Or would that just spark yet another controversy to be co-opted by Trump to further distract the pliant masses?)
Knowing that the company would inevitably be confronted by media on its position, Papa John’s hired a marketing firm called Laundry Service to help craft messaging. And when you’re so clueless that you have to hire a firm to tell you what to say – especially one called Laundry Service – you should expect rocky seas.
In a conference call with Schnatter and his team, the marketing firm did a bit of role playing with Papa to prepare him for possible hostile questions from the media about the company’s coziness with the NFL. Maybe the Laundry Service flak doing the role playing got under Schnatter’s pigskin, because Papa John was heard defending himself by noting, “Colonel Sanders called blacks niggers,” going on to complain that the Colonel never got called out for his racism. That should have been the end of it, but some person on the call leaked the slur – and then all hell broke loose.
(When will white public figures learn? Just like they’ll never successfully explain away a comment about how their personal travails are equivalent to the Holocaust, they can never, ever utter the N-word under any circumstances without it blowing back on them.)
Now Schnatter is trying to get back on the board of directors of the company he founded in his father’s bar after being forced to resign as Chairman. Meanwhile the stock has tanked and is now down about a third since the beginning of the year.
(In related humorous turn, during an interview with Forbes in January when Papa John’s stock (PZZA) was trading around $68, Pree Yerramilli, a Senior Analyst at Eagle Chase Capital explained why he believed the stock was primed to go much higher. Seven months later it’s selling for about $45. That’s why dudes like Pree are paid the big bucks.)
As with Subway’s Jared and Sambo’s Tiger, John Schnatter is systematically being erased from Papa John’s iconography. Could the company pull an IHOP and change its name? Papa Boner, perhaps?
I’m guessing most people who didn’t know his full name assumed John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s pizza was of Italian descent, given the nature of his cuisine and his Mediterranean-like features.
Question: What is the origin of the name of the “Mexican” restaurant chain Taco Bell?