Disgraced Papa John’s founder and former chairman John Schnatter alleges that PR firm hired to rehab his image threatened to “bury” him unless the company was paid $6 million. A newly disclosed conference call proves to be compelling evidence in the lawsuit.
Schnatter made headlines in 2017 when he said that NFL players kneeling during the national anthem and the league’s failure to resolve the issue “has hurt Papa John’s shareholders,” the company is a dominant advertiser with the NFL and season ratings plummeted during the controversy.
When Schnatter took a hit for the comments, PR firm Laundry Service was hired by Papa Johns to rehab his image, but in his lawsuit, he accuses the company of doing the exact opposite. In a May 2018 conference call, Schnatter was secretly recorded by the PR firm.
“What bothers me is Colonel Sanders called blacks n******. I’m like, I’ve never used that word. And they get away with it… Yet we use the word debacle and we get framed in the same genre. It’s crazy,” he remarked.
Court transcripts reveal that Laundry Service founder Jason Stein mocked Schnatter while their side of the call was muted. “This is what happens when a sociopath spirals,” he said. “I hope he gets f***kin’ sent out to the pasture on this sh**. I really, really f***kin’ do.”
Stein advised Schnatter to sit for a live interview on Twitter with Darren Rovell, but the transcript reveals that it was a set-up to further tarnish the Papa John’s founder’s image. “Make sure it’s an hour-long conversation, so that he says sh– like he said here. It’s gonna come out,” Stein remarked.
Papa John’s eventually fired the firm, but in June 2018, the CEO of Laundry Service’s parent company, Casey Wasserman allegedly threatened to “bury the founder” of Papa John’s if the company didn’t pay $6 million. Apparently, they refused.
Laundry Service was reportedly struggling financially, and forced to lay off 10% of staff on July 9, 2018. Two days later, Forbes ran a story that Schnatter had used the N-word during a conference call. He resigned from his position at Papa John’s immediately.