John Schnatter, a founder of the famous Kentucky pizza chain Papa John, has been accused of racism.
Workers from Laundry Service, a PR company Schnatter hired several years ago, allegedly filmed a recording in which Papa John’s founder was heard complaining about the media coverage he received in 2017.
Back then, Schnatter was criticized for negatively commenting about the event in which NFL players kneeled during the playing of the national anthem as a way to voice their protest against police brutality.
As the head of an NFL advertiser, Papa John’s founder said he was worried about the effects such a protest might have on the company’s performance.
Mainstream media depicted Schnatter’s remarks as insensitive toward the racial issues expressed by NFL players.
During the recorded call held in May 2018, Papa John’s founder’s use of an N-word especially triggered the PR workers.
During the call, Laundry Service founder Jason Stein even secretly described Schnatter as a “sociopath” and expressed his hope that Papa John’s founder would lose his job.
A female employee of Laundry Service, on the other hand, said that she regretted the lack of Schnatter’s understanding of the racial cause, adding that his refusing to change his political views presents a sort of racism.
Other Laundry Service workers chatted about Schnatter’s alleged sympathy toward right-wing policies, with one of them even identifying Papa John’s founder as “Mike Pence’s best friend”.
Consequences for Laundry Service
In response to the actions from Laundry Service, Schnatter initiated a lawsuit in which he accused the PR company of trying to extort around U.S $6 million from the pizza chain.
According to Schnatter, the call from 2018 was a part of the conspiracy aimed at obtaining a large sum of money from the pizza chain.
The lawsuit indicated that Schnatter’s words were taken out of context solely for illegal purposes, at the same time breaching the contract that stipulated PR company’s obligation to further the positive image of the pizza chain.
The blackmail allegedly came shortly before 10 percent of Laundry Service employees were fired by Laundry Service’s parent company Wasserman.
One of the fired workers was Jason Stein.
Just two days after the layoffs, the denigrating story about Schnatter came out.
Taken in this context, the negative campaign against Papa John’s founder seems like revenge that might culminate with legal consequences for the PR company.