Following founder John Schnatter‘s admission to using a racial slur during a conference call, the University of Louisville has dropped the Papa John‘s name from Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Last week, Forbes reported that Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s, used the N-word during a conference call in May. He confirmed to Forbes that he had used the racial slur, and resigned as chairman of the company. That prompted many to call on Louisville to drop Papa John’s from the name of its football facility.
It was initially uncertain if the university would follow through on those calls, as it was unclear whether Louisville would be able to do so under the agreement that backed the Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium name. However, university president Neeli Bendapudi announced on Friday that the Papa John’s name would be removed from Cardinal Stadium immediately. In her remarks, Bendapudi acknowledged that the decision could lead to a legal challenge, but said that she had the backing of the university’s board of trustees and that Schnatter’s remarks had “fractured” the university community. More from the Courier-Journal:
She made the call to drop the “Papa John’s” moniker — a unilateral decision that she said was supported by the school’s board of trustees, which Schnatter himself resigned from mere hours after the scandal started.
Bendapudi — the first person of color and first woman to ever serve as the university’s permanent president — said it was her prerogative and her responsibility to make this decision.
She said she informed Schnatter and Papa John’s International about the name change. But the right to alter the name of the stadium belongs to Schnatter as part of an agreement made in return for pledged donations.
Bendapudi, who noted that Schnatter’s comments “fractured” the U of L community, said the university is familiar with the contract and understands there may be potential consequences, such as a lawsuit.
Schnatter has disputed Bendapudi’s claim that she informed him of the decision, claiming in an interview with WLKY that he was unaware of the stadium’s name change until it was announced. The university, however, countered that claim in a Courier-Journal story:
John Drees, the University of Louisville’s interim senior associate vice president for communications, said Sunday in a statement to the Courier Journal that Bendapudi attempted to reach Schnatter before announcing her decision.
Bendapudi had previously called Schnatter on Thursday and he agreed to his name being removed from the school’s Center for Free Enterprise, Drees said.
“He asked for time to think about the stadium,” Drees said. “They talked again early Friday before the final decision. Later Friday morning, she called and texted him to share the final decision about the stadium, but he did not respond.”
In the aftermath of the decision, it seemed that the name change had the support of the football program’s fans. A July 15 story from the Courier-Journal asked a number of fans about the change, and found that many had a positive response to the announcement:
A sampling of fans outside the stadium revealed strong support for Bendapudi’s decision to change the name and, presumably to find a new sponsor.
“It’s just what’s right,” said longtime fan Steve Schmitt, whose seats are in the stadium’s new club level.
“In today’s socio-political environment, I think it was the right thing to do,” Chiraag Bhimani agreed. “That word should never be said, no matter the context, no matter the circumstances.”
The venue is now officially known as Cardinal Stadium, and the university is removing Papa John’s signage from the facility as part of the change.
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