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Papa John's stocks take hit as John Schnatter admits using N-word in call discussing NFL protests

Papa John's founder John Schnatter apologizes Wednesday after admitting he used the N-word in a marketing conference call in May. Despite his apology, CNBC reported that Papa John's stocks took a tumble. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Papa John's stocks have taken a hit after founder and former CEO John Schnatter admitted to using the N-word during a marketing conference call to discuss the NFL protests.

What did Schnatter say?

On Wednesday, Forbes issued a report that Schnatter used the word during a May marketing call with company executives and a marketing firm called Laundry Service.

The incident reportedly prompted Laundry Service to cut ties with the company.

According to Forbes, the call between Schnatter and the marketing company was set up for Schnatter to engage in a "role-playing exercise" in which Schnatter would be trained to "prevent future public relations snafus" like the one in December that followed when he blamed the NFL kneeling protests for struggling third-quarter earnings in 2017.

Schnatter resigned as CEO in December after criticizing the NFL, but retained his position as the company chairman.

During the May conference call, according to Forbes, when Schnatter was asked how he would distance himself from racist groups online, he reportedly responded, “Colonel Sanders called blacks n*****s,” and then Schnatter complained that Sanders never received backlash for his commentary.

Schnatter also reportedly recalled his Indiana childhood, where Forbes reported Schnatter said "people used to drag African-Americans from trucks until they died" in an attempt to portray an opposition to racism.

Schnatter's intentions backfired, however, as several people on the call were reportedly offended.

What did Papa John's say?

Papa John's issued a statement earlier on Wednesday, and didn't deny that Schnatter had made the comments.

The company said, "Papa John’s condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting. Our company was built on a foundation of mutual respect and acceptance. One of our core company values is People Are Priority Always (P.A.P.A.) and we are committed to maintaining a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace for all of our corporate and franchise employees."

The company's statement continued, “Diversity is an essential ingredient in our pursuit of providing a better product and better service to our customers and to the communities where we operate and live. We take great pride in the diversity of the Papa John’s family, though diversity and inclusion is an area where we will continue to strive to do better.”

What's happening now?

Schatter came forward to address the controversy, and admitted that he made the comments in question.

According to CNBC, Schnatter apologized Wednesday, saying, “News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true. Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”

Despite his apology, CNBC reported that Papa John's stocks took a tumble and slid 5.9 percent after the news.

CNBC reported that Papa John's fell to a "new 12-month low" as a result, to $47.80 per share, in intraday trading on Wednesday.

The outlet noted that on the whole, "[t]he news erased $96.2 million in market value."

Papa John's shares crater after report that founder used a racially charged slur from CNBC.

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