Papa John’s founder gives $1M to historically black college in Kentucky

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Papa John's Founder
Photo by Autumn Keiko

Over a year after coming under fire for his use of the ‘n-word’ during a company call and criticizing NFL protests, Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has donated $1 million to Simmons College, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Kentucky, ABC News reported.

The donation was announced to the public during a press conference last week. Simmons President Dr. Kevin Cosby said Schnatter was making “an important difference.”

“His support will have a profound impact on Simmons’ capacity to serve our city, state and nation,” Cosby said. In a statement about his donation, Schnatter expressed his reason for the generous gift.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with Dr. Cosby and Dr. Tolbert to learn about the important work they are doing in our community … I’m proud to support their efforts to help lift up those who want to better their own lives and the lives of those around them,” Schnatter said.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 67: Jamarlin Martin

Jamarlin goes solo to discuss the NFL’s entertainment and “social justice” deal with Jay-Z. We look back at the Barclays gentrification issue in the documentary “A Genius Leaves The Hood: The Unauthorized Story of Jay-Z.”

Schnatter resigned last year as the popular pizza chain’s board chair and from the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees following the backlash to his statements. He said his comments were taken out of context and intended to exhibit his stance against racism.

“The agency was promoting that vocabulary […] And I made it real clear: ‘Listen, we’re not gonna go there. We’re not gonna talk about this,'” Schnatter said. “They pushed me and it upset me, and I just said, ‘Listen, other people have used that word. I don’t, and will not use that word and people at Papa John’s don’t use that.’ And that was the comment. But they actually wanted to get into that vocabulary, and I said absolutely not.”

There is speculation that Schnatter’s gift is his way of continued damage control. Complex called the possibility “the elephant in the room” no one else wanted to address.

This isn’t the first time Papa John’s has donated to a HBCU. Earlier this year, the pizza chain gave half a million dollars to Bennett College to help the first all-women’s HBCU retain its accreditation.