Papa John’s Founder Gives $1M to Historically Black College

Ousted Papa John’s founder John Schnatter is donating $1 million to Simmons College of Kentucky, the only private historically Black college or university in the state.

Simmons College of Kentucky’s president, Dr. Kevin Cosby, announced the donation during a press event on September 4. The donation comes just over a year after the pizza chain’s former CEO and chairman was outed for using a racial slur during a conference call.

“John is making and will continue to make an important difference,” Cosby said in a statement to the Louisville Courier Journal. “His support will have a profound impact on Simmons’ capacity to serve our city, state and nation.”

In a statement, Schnatter said it was a pleasure working with Cosby and Dr. Samuel Tolbert, president of the National Baptist Convention of America, to “learn about the important work they are doing in our community.” He added, “I’m proud to support their efforts to help lift up those who want to better their own lives and the lives of those around them.”

In January 2018, Schnatter stepped down as Papa John’s CEO after he blamed the Louisville-based company’s poor sales on the NFL player protests the previous year, Forbes reported. Two months before, Schnatter said during a third-quarter earnings call that the NFL had hurt Papa John’s sales by not resolving the national anthem protests by players.

Forbes reported that Papa John’s stock quickly dropped 11 percent, reducing Schnatter’s net worth by $70 million.

Schnatter later used the N-word during a May conference call with the marketing agency Laundry Service. The call was reportedly designed as a role-playing exercise intended to help Schnatter avoid future controversy following his NFL comments.

The then-chairman was asked how he would distance himself from racist groups on the internet. Schnatter responded by downplaying his NFL remarks, according to Forbes.

“Colonel Sanders called Blacks [the N-word],” Schnatter claimed, before complaining about Sanders not facing the public backlash he had. He also touched on his life in Indiana, where he said people used to kill African Americans by dragging them from trucks. A source told Forbes that several people were offended by the remarks.

Laundry Service owner Casey Wasserman cut the company’s contract with the pizza chain after learning of the incident.

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

In a letter to Papa John’s board, Schnatter said he believed it was a mistake to ask him to step down as chairman. “The board asked me to step down as chairman without apparently doing any investigation,” he said. “I agreed, though today I believe it was a mistake to do so. I will not allow either my good name or the good name of the company I founded and love to be unfairly tainted.”

Schnatter reportedly left the September 4 Simmons College announcement event without taking questions from the press. He continues to make money from his Papa John’s shares. On August 22, he reportedly sold 475,861 shares for a total of $20.6 million.

Simmons College of Kentucky was established in 1879, according to the institution’s website. After the end of the Civil War, members of the Kentucky State Convention of Colored Baptist Churches helped establish the state’s first post-secondary education institute for its “Colored” citizens.

It was founded as the Kentucky Normal and Theological Institute, an institution of biblical higher education. In 1918, it was renamed Simmons University after the institute’s second president, Dr. William Simmons.

The university was forced to relocate to a smaller location in 1935. Due to falling student enrollment and the loss of accreditation, the institution changed its operations and was renamed again, this time to Simmons Bible College. It later reacquired its original campus and secured accreditation after Cosby became president.

Simmons said student enrollment is increasing at an “unprecedented rate.” It is now recognized by the Department of Education as a member of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). The student population is around 300 for undergraduates and 100 for graduate students.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.