Papa John’s founder John Schnatter’s use of the N-word in a 2018 conference call — which led to him stepping down as chairman — was not racist and the episode was widely misreported, according to the findings of an investigation commissioned by his lawyers.
The investigation’s results, released Monday by Louis Freeh, former FBI Director and federal judge, were based in part on what was described as a “background” investigation into Schnatter’s past relationships with coworkers, friends and prominent African Americans.
“A thorough examination by FGIS found that the public comments by Mr. Schnatter were neither intended nor can reasonably be interpreted to reflect any racial bias, prejudice, or disrespect for African Americans or people of color,” the investigative report said.
Investigators reviewed the transcript of the phone conference between Schnatter and marketing agency Laundry Service.
It has been reported — and confirmed by Schnatter in a subsequent apology — that while discussing football players taking a knee during the national anthem he said “Colonel Sanders called blacks n—–s” and never faced a backlash.
But many media outlets, the findings claimed, failed to provide further context into Schnatter’s comments.
Freeh, in a press release statement, said that in the meeting Schnatter “stress[ed] his disdain for racism” and “at no time… express[ed] any beliefs that could be described as bigoted or intolerant.”
Schnatter did not “use the word as a racial slur nor was it directed at any person or group,” added Freeh.
The investigative report found that Schnatter’s standing and reputation with prominent Africans Americans further validated their assessment that “Mr. Schnatter had no prejudicial intent or racial animus when he made the public comments at issue.”
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