A media agency working with Papa John’s International Inc. decided to cut ties after the pizza maker’s founder and chairman, John Schnatter, allegedly used a racial slur and graphic descriptions of violence against minorities on a May conference call, according to Forbes.
Papa John’s and the agency, Laundry Service, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Laundry Service, owned by sports agency owner Casey Wasserman, told staff in a May 31 letter that it would be ending its work with an unnamed client due to “the regrettable recent events that several employees of Laundry Service witnessed during interactions with a client’s executive,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by Bloomberg News.
The agency didn’t name either the client or the executive in the letter.
Following the incident, Laundry Service said it held a call with the client’s chief executive officer to discuss winding down the media agency’s work with the company. “We also instructed the client that during this transition, the executive who made the offensive remarks must not communicate directly with any Laundry Service employee,” according to the letter. “We are proud to share an understanding with you that racism, and other forms of discrimination, will not be tolerated.”
Forbes reported that the call was arranged between Papa John’s executives and Laundry Service as a role-playing exercise for Schnatter to prevent future public-relations missteps.
Schnatter stepped down as Papa John’s CEO in January. The decision followed a November controversy when he said that players’ national-anthem protests were mishandled by NFL leadership and hurt the pizza chain’s sales. Papa John’s later apologized for the “divisive” comments.