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The Leader of the African American Thinking Media in Louisville demands a boycott of Papa John’s pizza over the company’s management of founder John Schnatter’s use of the N word.
Rev. Gerome Sutton said he did not want to see a Papa John’s truck on Wednesdays and Fridays until he could provide a list of claims to CEO Steve Ritchie personally.
“They’re just trying to do nothing but fix the problem (internally). But they’re not trying to heal the wounds externally,” said Sutton. “The wounds are still there. The bleeding is gushing. Something must be done right away.”
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Sutton declined to release the entire list of Courier Journal requirements but said that they include appointment of an African-American board member, implementation of diversity and inclusion training and the creation of an advertisement campaign with PSA and magazine spreads on the whole page and apologize for Schnatter’s offensive language.
He expects to hear from Ritchie in the next seven to ten days, said Sutton. He plans to reassess the boycott after the meeting.
A report last month revealed that Schnatter used the N word in a conference call earlier this year and the news ignited a four-star controversy around the company. Schnatter was forced out of his role as chairman of the company’s board and had his founder agreement suspended during the fall of the crisis.
Ritchie and other senior executives with the company, including Victoria Russell, current manager of diversity and inclusion, launched a “listening trip” to nine cities to meet franchisees, business leaders, employees and customers. A separate internal cultural review of a third party company is also ongoing.
Last fall, before Schnatter’s comments, employees launched a diversity and inclusion committee with Ritchie’s blessing. Six subcommittees of 35 to 40 people had already focused on minority recruitment, HBT issues, marketing, statistics and social responsibility. Their goal was to offer recommendations to transform the company and make it more appropriate.
When Schnatter’s latest comments arose, “they just accelerated” to change, Russell told the Courier Journal earlier.
Ritchie told analysts on a Tuesday night conference call that the company is working hard to focus on a re-branding effort. The company has approximately 120,000 employees, including 650 at its headquarters in Louisville.
“We are working to ensure that our future is not defined by the words and actions of a person,” said Ritchie, adding that an external cultural audit should provide more guidance for creating a new path.
Despite the challenges, Ritchie said that the company has a good opportunity to “jump” in a stronger position behind more “purposeful” branding.
The company said in a statement Wednesday that officials had publicly condemned Schnatter’s comments, as well as “somewhat racist or insensitive language”.
“Our work is just the beginning and we will continue to communicate our way forward,” said it.
Sutton said Wednesday he was not happy with how the company had acted as demand on the news and urged the company to contradict “heal the wounds” caused by the language.
He added that he had received black children coming to him and asked about Schnatter’s language and asked, “What did he mean by using the N word?”
“It’s not enough. It’s not America I know, Sutton Sutton.
Darcy Costello: 502-582-4834; email@example.com; Twitter: @dctello. Support strong local journalism by subscribing Today: www.courier-journal.com/darcyc.
In the numbers that run Papa John’s share price down.
Scott Utterback, Louisville Courier Journal
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