Business & Tech

Papa John's shares surge as founder exits for using slur

Shares of US pizza chain Papa John's International surged Thursday after embattled founder John Schnatter resigned as chairman for using an inflammatory racial slur on a conference call.

Papa John's founder John Schnatter apologizes after using a racial slur and departs as CEO
Papa John's founder John Schnatter apologizes after using a racial slur and departs as CEO (GETTY/AFP)

Shares of US pizza chain Papa John's International surged Thursday after embattled founder John Schnatter resigned as chairman for using an inflammatory racial slur on a conference call.

The company's shares price rocketed 11.4 percent higher Thursday morning to $53.82, in after the company announced late Wednesday that Schnatter was stepping down.

Olivia Kirtley will serve as lead independent director until a new chair is appointed, the company said.

Shares dropped on Wednesday following a Forbes report that Schnatter used the N-word, a highly offensive slur to refer to blacks, in a conference call. The article included an apology from Schnatter.

"News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true," he said, according to Forbes. "Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society."

Schnatter had stepped down as chief executive in December following an earlier controversy after he criticized National Football League players for national anthem protests last season over racial injustice by police, a stance that echoed that of US President Donald Trump.

Schnatter had blamed weak pizza sales for the NFL protests. Papa John's is an NFL sponsor.

Schnatter's departure follows the June dismissal of former Netflix spokesman Jonathan Friedland for using the N-word twice during meetings with staff.

Harvard University professor Randall Kennedy, the author of a 2003 book on the slur, described the fraught history of the N-word in a 2016 interview with PBS.

Kennedy recounted how the word was used as an insult in the US dating back to at least the 1820s and had more recently been employed when African Americans were told they could not vote or were shunted to the back of the bus.

"It's the atomic bomb of racial slurs," Kennedy said, adding that the term has also been weaponized against Palestinians, the Irish and other groups.