University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi announced Friday that the school will change the name of its football stadium from Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to Cardinal Stadium after John Schnatter, the pizza company’s founder, admitted he used the n-word during a conference call with marketing executives. Schnatter was a major donor to the school and was a member of the school’s Board of Trustees until he resigned from it on Wednesday.
Bendapudi made her announcement in a letter to the university community:
In moments of crisis, the best communities find a way to come together. Over the last 24 hours our community has been fractured by the comments made by former UofL trustee John Schnatter. These comments were hurtful and unacceptable, and they do not reflect the values of our university. I have decided, with the support of our Board of Trustees, to rename our football stadium “Cardinal Stadium” and to remove John Schnatter’s name from the Center for Free Enterprise at our College of Business effective immediately.
I have stated since my first day on this job that my commitment to the University of Louisville is to make it a great place to learn, a great place to work, and a great place in which to invest. We can only accomplish this if we truly celebrate diversity, foster equity, and aim to achieve inclusion.
By taking this action, we renew our community’s commitment to speaking up when it matters, doing what is right, and coming together as one team – our Cardinal family – to heal and move forward. The brightest days for this university are still ahead.
Schnatter donated $14 million personally to help fund the 20-year-old stadium’s construction and subsequent expansion, and the Papa John’s company added another $6 million, according to the Courier-Journal. In exchange, the company had a naming-rights agreement with the school that extended through Dec. 31, 2040.
But the school faced mounting pressure from a number of constituents, including football players Seth Dawkins and Jaylen Smith, to drop the company’s name from the stadium.
Donovan Mitchell, a former Louisville basketball player who now suits up for the Utah Jazz, suggested renaming the stadium after Louisville’s favorite son:
Several Major League Baseball teams — including the Washington Nationals — have suspended their ties with the pizza chain in the wake of Schnatter’s comments. Fans received discounts on pizza orders when the teams achieved certain pre-set goals during games. The Miami Marlins, meanwhile, announced they would be closing the Papa John’s concession stand at their stadium.
Schnatter blamed Papa John’s disappointing sales last fall on protests by NFL players during the national anthem, causing a backlash and leading to his resignation as company CEO in January. The conference call with the marketing company was intended to help him return to the public eye. Instead, further waded further into controversy after it was revealed that, during the call, he claimed “Colonel Sanders called blacks n—–s” but didn’t face the same backlash that he had. The marketing agency proceeded to drop Papa John’s as a client, even at significant financial cost, according to Forbes. Schnatter resigned as the chairman of the board of his company on Wednesday.
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