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Louisville Getting Calls to Drop Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium Name

Louisville Cardinals

Many are calling on the University of Louisville to drop the Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium name, following John Schnatter‘s admission to using a racial slur during a conference call. 

On Wednesday, 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.

Schnatter did apologize for the remark, but in light of the report, some are calling on Louisville to drop the naming-rights agreement for Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The university has indicated that it is evaluating the agreement, while Schnatter has resigned from his spot on the university’s board of trustees. More from the Courier-Journal:

The latest: Pressure is mounting to change the name, and University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi said Thursday the university will evaluate the naming arrangement of the stadium.

“Anybody with a moral compass would see how that’s a little . . . shall we say . . . problematic,” tweeted Ricky Jones, a professor at the University of Louisville.

The news of John Schnatter’s comments in May, first reported by Forbes on Wednesday, quickly crumbled the pizza magnate’s already damaged reputation.

Within hours of the report, Schnatter apologized for his words, resigned from the University of Louisville’s board of trustees and stepped down as chairman of the company he built.

For Louisville, one of the major issues is the contract that backs the Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium name. The naming rights are the result of donations that Schnatter has given to the stadium over the years, and there is no language in the contract that gives Louisville the right to unilaterally change the facility’s name. Louisville has acknowledged its disappointment in Schnatter, but is has been noncommittal thus far about changing the facility’s name. More from the Courier-Journal:

Thursday, U of L President Neeli Bendapudi expressed her disappointment in Schnatter, adding her voice to others, including tweets from the accounts of football players Jaylen Smith and Seth Dawkins, in a growing chorus of criticism following Schnatter’s admission and apology for using a racial slur during a corporate conference call.

“Any time that your university is mentioned in less than glowing terms, as the president of the university, it’s disappointing,” Bendapudi said. “… I am sure that he will say that he is sorry that he has hurt so many people, including – I know – students that he cares a great deal about.”

In return for donations pledged prior to the stadium’s construction, the university agreed to its original corporate name and provided Schnatter the right to request changes no more than once every five years.

That deal, which was due to expire after the stadium had been open for 15 years, was subsequently extended through Dec. 31, 2040, in consideration of donations from Schnatter totaling $14 million and an additional $6 million from the Papa John’s corporate coffers.

This is not the first time that Schnatter has been at the center of controversy. Last fall, he criticized the NFL’s handling of player protests during the national anthem and claimed that it was hurting sales for Papa John’s, which was an official sponsor of the league at the time. According to Forbes, the May conference call with Papa John’s executives and the marketing agency Laundry Service was “designed as a role-playing exercise for Schnatter in an effort to prevent future public-relations snafus.”

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