By Quintez Brown —
U of L made the decision to remove “Papa John’s” from the football stadium July 13. The company and brand will remain on campus and still be available for students to eat and purchase from.
Why remove the name from the stadium but not the brand from campus? We have to separate the company from the individual.
Changing the stadium name shows the university is committed to the ideals of diversity, inclusion and equity. We have to trust that the company and brand will follow suit.
What was formerly known as Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium will now be simply Cardinal Stadium. This decision, led by president Neeli Bendapudi, came only a couple days after John Schnatter’s use of the n-word gained media attention.
Bendapudi said, “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.”
This decision was also supported by Senate Maj. Leader Mitch McConnell who said he’d “absolutely” remove the name. Both of these leaders agreeing upon this issue goes to show how united the Louisville community is to make sure racism has no place in our city and campus.
Now, this means that our football players will not have to play in a stadium named after a man who’s made racially insensitive comments and also criticized the kneeling of professional football players. However, despite the overwhelming community support for this decision, Papa John’s will keep its place in the U of L campus.
The university has no plans to stop the sale of Papa John’s in the stadium or campus. Therefore, the students at U of L, 10 percent of whom are black, will still have the option to eat at the restaurant.
We can easily go to the SAC and use our flex points and meal plan to buy from Papa John’s.
However, I think it is important that we separate Schnatter from the company Papa John’s. The company has already separated themselves from Schnatter as he is no longer the CEO or Chairman of the brand. They’ve also made many progressive steps forward such as removing his image from marketing and also hiring a new advertising agency to help redefine the brand.
The university and Papa John’s are making the effort to distance and separate themselves from the former founder. If the company had not made these efforts to prove to its stakeholders that it will not tolerate Schnatter’s comments, it would have been inappropriate and wrong for the university to keep this company around the campus and its students.
Papa John’s wants to prove to us that its brand and “better pizza” are bigger than Schnatter. We have to think about the customers, franchisees, employees and investors that were also hurt by his behavior and would be even worse off if it affected the company.
Most of Papa John’s franchises are independently owned. Shares and sales have dropped and it’s affecting their employees. We should keep these individuals in our mind when we think about the company.
Papa John’s has great tasting pizza and it’s readily available to us. The university and Bendapudi have done a great job of reminding our community that we are a school of diversity, inclusion and equity.
We all should move forward while keeping those principles in the front of our mind by making sure Papa John’s is willing to hold Schnatter accountable and make up for his mistake. Let’s continue to enjoy their breadsticks while keeping a close eye on their next moves.
File photo / The Louisville Cardinal