Several MLB teams cut ties with Papa John's after founder used N-word in conference call

  • Six MLB teams have suspended relationships with Papa John's since the admission of founder John Schnatter's use of the N-word on a conference call.

  • Other teams have stated that they are keeping their relationship with the brand, disavowing Schnatter's comments but citing long-standing relationships with local owners whose values they share.

  • It's the second time in just the past few months that comments from Schnatter have cost the brand relationships with big partners in the sporting world.

Six MLB teams have now suspended relationships with Papa John's in the wake of founder John Schnatter's admission of using the N-word during a conference call.

While Schnatter has since resigned from his role with the pizza chain, the company is still dealing with the fallout of the controversy, and has now lost promotional deals with teams across baseball — the Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners, and Baltimore Orioles have all either paused or cancelled relationships they had with the brand.

According to the Washington Post, the Nationals were the latest team to do so, releasing a statement on Friday saying they "do not condone discrimination of any kind," and have suspended their partnership with the pizza chain, adding that the team "remain[s] supportive of our local operators who have been fantastic partners for more than eleven years."

The Miami Marlins announced a similar plan on Thursday, with the Miami Herald reporting that the team was closing the Papa John's concession stand at its stadium as well as suspending a promotional deal with the brand, which gave customers 50% off pizza the day after the Marlins scored five or more runs.

The Rays and Royals halted similar promotions as well.

While many have put their relationships with the brand on hold, there were a few teams across the league that decided to maintain their deals with Papa John's, disavowing Schnatter's comments and praising the brand for its swift action, while cited long-running partnerships with local store owners and operators who shared their values.

"We are glad that at a national level, Papa John’s took swift action to deal with the issue," said the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to ABC15. "From our team standpoint, our partnership is with local owner/operators in Phoenix and completely separate from the national company. That promotion will continue."

The Houston Astros didn't announce any direct plans to continue or suspend its relationship with Papa John's, but gave a similar statement, expressing that the team was "incredibly disappointed with the statements made by Papa John’s founder John Schnatter," while also saying that they feel "confident that the local franchisees and their employees share the Astros’ commitment to diversity and inclusiveness."

While Papa John's was once ubiquitous with the sports world, it's partnerships have fallen off over the past few months due to Schnatter's actions. The brand had formally been the official pizza of the NFL but came to a "mutual decision" to end that relationship after Schnatter blamed slowed sales on player protests.

With its latest controversy, Papa John's relationships with professional sports have diminished even further.

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