Papa John’s is the latest company to perform damage control following racially insensitive remarks by the company’s founder and namesake, John Schnatter. It all started when Schnatter criticized the NFL’s leadership and blamed protests by football players for falling pizza sales. It was also revealed that he used a racial slur during a media training session. Like most, Schnatter issued an apology, but the damage was already done. The company removed his face from its logo and pizza boxes. However, he is the company’s biggest shareholder, according to ESPN.
In an effort to repair the company’s image and sales, Papa John’s has called on NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal as the new face of their brand. He will also join the company’s board of directors and invest in nine of its restaurants in the Atlanta area.
You know @SHAQ as a Hall of Famer, sports commentator and entrepreneur. Today, we're adding "Papa John's board member and investor in Atlanta stores" to his long list of pursuits. His business savvy and passion for our pizza make him a great fit.
— Papa John's Pizza (@PapaJohns) March 22, 2019
“If you want to enjoy great pizza and feel loved by the people that serve the pizza, you can come back home now,” O’Neal said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The Daddy is here.”
Stating that he’s the first African-American to join Papa John’s board, O’Neal described Schnatter’s comments as unacceptable and told the company’s executives that it needed more diversity in its leadership. Papa John’s International Inc. said it will pay O’Neal more than $8 million in cash and company stock for the three-year endorsement deal.
“We want to create a culture to let everybody know that they’re loved, accepted and wanted,” O’Neal said.