Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that he would like to see a change in the name of the University of Louisville football venue known as the Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. That afternoon, the university announced it would do just that.
McConnell, a Louisville graduate and regular attendee at Cardinals football games, made the comment in response to questions from reporters in Louisville about the admission by Papa John’s founder John Schnatter that he used the n-word during a call with executives of the pizza chain.
McConnell said he was not familiar with the details of the contract giving Papa John’s naming rights at the stadium, but he said he trusted the university president would handle the situation “very well.”
“I don’t like it,” McConnell said of the stadium’s name. “If it was up to me, I’d change it tomorrow.”
University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi announced Friday afternoon that the venue would be renamed Cardinal Stadium. Schnatter’s name will also be removed from the university’s Center for Free Enterpise at its business college.
Asked if he thinks Schnatter is racist, McConnell said: “We know what he said, and we know he apologized for it, which he certainly should have, and there’s no place for that in our society.”
Schnatter, 56, apologized for his comments Wednesday and resigned as chairman of the board of Papa John’s, following a Forbes report about remarks he made in May. Schnatter acknowledged that the report was accurate.
According to the Forbes report, Schnatter and other Papa John’s executives were on a call with a marketing agency hired by the company to help him return to the public eye. The entrepreneur, familiar to football fans and others for his central presence in the chain’s advertising campaigns, was compelled to lay low after blaming his company’s disappointing sales last fall on protests by NFL players during the national anthem.
On the call, Schnatter reportedly claimed that “Colonel Sanders called blacks n-----s” but didn’t face the same backlash that he had.
Later, ostensibly to display his opposition to racism, Schnatter talked about how black people had been dragged behind trucks to their deaths when he was growing up in Indiana. The marketing agency proceeded to drop Papa John’s as a client, even at significant financial cost, according to Forbes.
Several University of Louisville football players have called for changing the name of their stadium.
Schnatter has been a major donor to the university. On Wednesday, he resigned from its board of trustees.
Des Bieler and Scott Allen contributed to this report.