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 local Papa John’s franchises that had nothing to do with Schnatter’s comments.

Papa John’s began a team sponsorship in 2011, replacing Donatos.

Schnatter resigned as Papa John’s chairman 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 in a statement 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.”

Part of the sponsorship with Papa John’s is a deal in which patrons get 50 percent off pizza after games when the Jackets score two goals in a game.

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 mages 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 continued.

“Any such images associated with our relationship with local franchisees will be removed expeditiously.”

The University of Louisville is removing Papa John’s from its football stadium’s name. The 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 named 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 franchise as it donates money to the charity that was created and named after his late mother, Janis, who died after a battle with breast cancer in 2009.

According to Foligno, the Janis Foligno Foundation has received over $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 franchises 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.”

Foligno has appeared in numerous ads for Papa John’s over the years 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.

During breaks in games at Nationwide Arena, Foligno appears on the scoreboard in taped ads pitching the pizza and his charity.

“The whole thing is just sad,” Foligno said. “It’s a shame in this day and time someone would say something like that.”

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.

Schnatter, who has donated millions to the school, will also have his name removed from the university’s 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 professional sports teams have sponsorship deals with the pizza company in which discounts are given based on results from games the previous day.

A number of baseball teams — including 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.

grichards@dispatch.com

@GeorgeRichards

http://www.dispatch.com/sports/20180713/blue-jackets-nick-foligno-keeping-ties-with-local-papa-johns-franchises

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