UPDATED: 10:04 a.m. EDT — Papa John’s issued a statement Tuesday morning about the controversy surrounding the accusations it exchanged with a historically Black college in Kentucky about a donation from the pizza company. Simmons College was accused by Papa John’s of rejecting scholarship money from the pizza company over its racist image. But Simmons’ president implied that Papa John’s actually revoked the scholarship money it had offered.
Without offering any context, Papa John’s released the following statement Tuesday morning: “We’re pleased to have delivered to Simmons College a check for $30,000 from Papa John’s to fund scholarships for the promising students there.”
The unfortunate episode unfolded more than a week following the announcement by disgraced Papa John’s founder and former CEO John Schnatter — who famously resigned over using the N-word — that he would donate $1 million to Simmons.
In order to clean up their racist image, Papa John’s donated money to the HBCU Simmons College in Kentucky. However, the money has been revoked and it’s not clear who is to blame.
Ten students were supposed to receive $2,000 scholarships for living expenses and a full one million was supposed to build a lodging facility at a Baptist retreat center in Louisville. Simmons College President Dr. Kevin W. Cosby said in a statement, “It felt as though someone has taken weapons of mass destruction and flown them into the hopes and dreams and aspirations of some of America’s most vulnerable students.”
However, Papa John’s is claiming the school refused the scholarship, according to Courier Journal. A Sept. 3 email read from Simmons’ director of development, Von Purdy, to Natonya Harbison, Papa John’s director of supplier diversity, “Thank you for our discussions on how to help support the students of Simmons College of Kentucky. In light of recent news, it is best to decline your scholarships at this time and perhaps look at other ways to partner in the future.”
However, Courier Journal reports, “Simmons spokeswoman Krystal Goodner said Purdy sent that email because of pressure from Papa John’s chief of diversity, equity and inclusion, Victoria Russell.” Goodner claims Russell and Papa John’s “felt uncomfortable” about the donation.
Purdy also said at a press conference that she meant to write in the email “delay,” not “decline” the money. Goodner stated, “We did not at all, and we would never, turn any monies away geared towards our students.” Simmons will still provide the $2,000 to the ten students.
Papa John’s spokeswoman Madeline Chadwick said in a statement, “We were disappointed when the administration of Simmons College unexpectedly told us last week they would not move forward with the scholarship program we had offered in good faith.” She also said it is “absolutely false” the company revoked the scholarship.
In case you missed it, back in May, Forbes reported on a conference call where John Schnatter was asked how he would avoid white supremacist groups online, he referenced the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken Colonel Harland David Sanders, who died in 1980, saying, “Colonel Sanders called Blacks n***ers.” He also said that during his childhood, white people in Indiana used trucks to drag Black people to death.
Schnattr resigned by later said he “regrets resigning as chairman after using a racial slur during a training session and believes the company’s board mishandled the situation by pushing him aside without an investigation, according to people familiar with his thinking,” Bloomberg.com reported. “The people, who asked not to be identified discussing private views, didn’t say what action Schnatter might take in response or whether he would ask to be restored to his post.”
Nontheless, Schnatter is still profiting. He remained on the company’s board of directors and was the largest shareholder. Plus, he allegedly still owns almost 30 percent of the company and his wife “is a Papa John’s franchisee with one restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, according to the company’s latest proxy statement. Last year, royalties earned by the company from her restaurant were about $76,000. Schnatter’s airline, Hampton Airways Inc., provides business travel to the company as well,” Bloomberg reported.