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“That Was the Most Racist”: Papa John’s Founder Goes at Shaquille O’Neal for ‘Replacing’ Him After His N-Word Scandal

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

"That Was the Most Racist": Papa John's Founder Goes at Shaquille O'Neal for 'Replacing' Him After His N-Word Scandal

Shaquille O’Neal is usually the one starting beefs with questionable comments about others. However, Papa John’s founder John Schnatter flipped the script on the four-time NBA champion recently. On the Fearless with Jason Whitlock podcast, the former CEO of the popular restaurant chain claimed that the company hiring Shaq to be the face of the brand after forcing him out was a racist move.

The 62-year-old said to Whitlock,

“Of all the things, that was the most racist. They’re going to use a black guy to cover up what they did to a white guy? That’s racist. Now, that’s racist. They did it, right in front of America. It was just to shield to cover up the infidelities of what they did to me.”

Schnatter’s controversial claims might surprise many, considering what led to his departure from the company. In 2018, he resigned as the company’s CEO after using the N-word on a conference call, that was ironically a sensitivity training session for him after he had said that the NFL should have done more to stop Colin Kaepernick’s protests during the national anthem.

Per Forbes, Schnatter downplayed the company’s concerns and said, “[KFC founder] Colonel Sanders called Blacks n****s.”

He was ousted as CEO in July 2018 and eight months later, Papa John’s welcomed O’Neal to their board of directors. Banking on his reputation as one of the most beloved athletes in America, the pizza brand looked to improve the company’s public perception after Schnatter’s troubling comments went viral.

Unsurprisingly, the move worked wonders. In 2020, Papa John’s launched the wildly popular Shaq-a-Roni pizza and per Macro Trends, the company’s stock, which had lost half its value by February 2019, rose by 300% by November 2021.

Schnatter’s comments almost sunk the company he built. The board’s decision to push him out and hire O’Neal to be the face of the brand saved it. Therefore, the former CEO’s accusation that the company hired the Hall of Famer because they were racist is baffling.

Superman Shaq to bid adieu to Papa John’s

After dousing the fire that John Schnatter’s comments ignited, Shaquille O’Neal is saying goodbye to the brand. In February, the company announced that the four-time NBA champion is ending his association with the company and giving up his seat on the board to focus on his other business ventures.

Shaq said in a statement,

“While my other business commitments make it challenging to extend my board service for another term, I am looking forward to continuing my partnership with Papa John’s, a brand I’ve loved since my days playing basketball at LSU.”

While O’Neal willingly gave up his seat on the board of directors, Papa John’s couldn’t let him terminate his association with the brand and retained him as an ambassador and a spokesperson. Per Marco Trends, the company’s stock price has fallen almost 10% since they announced that the Hall of Famer was exiting as a director, showcasing how critical he has been to the brand’s reputation and success.

Post Edited By:Satagni Sikder

About the author

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar


Jay Lokegaonkar is a basketball journalist who has been following the sports as a fan 2005. He has worked in a slew of roles covering the NBA, including writer, editor, content manager, social media manager, and head of content since 2018. However, his primary passion is writing about the NBA. Especially throwback stories about the league's iconic players and franchises. Revisiting incredible tales and bringing scarcely believable stories to readers are one his main interests as a writer.

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