Blue Jackets keep ties with local Papa John’s franchises
Papa John’s will remain the “official pizza” of the Blue Jackets, the team said Friday.
The pizza chain is embroiled in controversy after founder John Schnatter used a racial slur during a company conference call in May.
The Blue Jackets and team captain Nick Foligno said their relationship is with a local Papa John’s franchisee that had nothing to do with Schnatter’s comments.
Papa John’s began a team sponsorship in 2011, replacing Donatos.
Schnatter resigned as chairman of Papa John’s on Wednesday after his comments came to light in a Forbes report.
“The Columbus Blue Jackets believe there is no place in our society for discrimination of any kind, and remarks such as those made by Papa John’s founder John Schnatter lie in direct conflict with the values of our organization,” the team wrote after being contacted by The Dispatch.
“The Blue Jackets have enjoyed a long relationship with local Papa John’s franchisees in central Ohio. They have been great community partners and, we believe, share our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.”
Johncol Inc. is the local franchisee; it has 28 restaurants, according to its website.
Part of the sponsorship with Papa John’s is a deal in which patrons get 50 percent off pizza after games in which the Jackets score two goals.
Papa John’s pizza is sold at Nationwide Arena and is also given away to fans as a promotion during breaks in game action. The team said it was removing pictures of Schnatter from the arena.
“Papa John’s has strongly condemned the remarks of Mr. Schnatter and is in the process of removing images of him from its marketing materials,” the Blue Jackets’ statement said.
The University of Louisville is removing “Papa John’s” from its football stadium’s name. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company’s logo has been on Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium since it was built 20 years ago.
The move came after Louisville football players went on social media calling for Papa John’s signage to be removed from the stadium.
Seth Dawkins, a junior receiver from Franklin Heights who started 10 games last season, called for the name to be taken down in a Twitter post Thursday afternoon.
“We need to change the name of the stadium ASAP, I’m not here for it,” Dawkins tweeted.
Foligno has a personal-services contract with the local Papa John’s franchisee, which donates money to the charity that was created and named for his late mother, Janis, who died in 2009 after a battle with breast cancer.
According to Foligno, the Janis Foligno Foundation has received more than $60,000 from sales of special Papa John’s pizzas as well as donations for goals scored by Foligno over the past three years.
Foligno was reached on vacation in Canada on Friday and said he had not heard the news of Schnatter’s comments — but said they had no place in society and would hurt local franchisees such as the ones he has a personal investment in and relationships with.
“I have had a great relationship with the local Papa John’s people over the years,” Foligno said. “It’s disappointing that people who work under that corporate name are affected by the choices (Schnatter) made.
“They are the ones being hurt by these harmful words. The whole thing is just unfortunate. It’s a sad deal for everyone.”
Over the years, Foligno has appeared in numerous ads for Papa John’s in which he is in full uniform seen “working” at a local pizza store or delivering pies. Those ads usually run during Blue Jackets broadcasts on Fox Sports Ohio as well as on local programming.
The pizza chain is also removing Schnatter’s image from its advertising. Schnatter — who was replaced in Papa John’s advertising after controversy surrounding NFL sponsorships — resigned not only as company chairman but also from the board of trustees at the University of Louisville.
The university, which has received millions of dollars in donations from Schnatter, will remove his name from the business school.
“After speaking with John, I’m confident that his comments, while inappropriate, do not reflect his personal beliefs or values,” Louisville board of trustees chairman J. David Grissom said in a statement.
“No member of the board of trustees condones racism or insensitive language, regardless of the setting. The University of Louisville embraces and celebrates diversity and is a supporter of all its students and stakeholders regardless as to their identity.”
As is the case with the Blue Jackets, many college and professional sports teams have sponsorship deals with the pizza company in which discounts are given based on results of games the previous day.
A number of Major League Baseball teams — including the New York Yankees, Washington, Baltimore and Kansas City — have ended those relationships.
Major League Baseball also suspended a promotion with the company.
The Miami Marlins ended their discount pizza deal and closed a Papa John’s stand in their ballpark.
A few teams are sticking with the company, citing local ties, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros and Crew SC.