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Papa John’s alleged ‘racism’ jeopardizes school district contract

A school district in central Pennsylvania is dealing with parents angry over a contract with Papa John’s pizza to provide pies for its elementary and middle schools.

As reported by the Centre Daily Times, State College Area School District near Penn State University also faces opposition from a group called Standing Up for Racial Justice, which was alerted to the issue by district parent Lorraine Jones.

The controversy is based on use of the “N” word by former Papa John’s chief John Schnatter. The pizza magnate said the word in a private conversation while “seeking advice as to how to communicate in a way that would be less offensive to others.”

Citing this context, Schnatter’s alma mater Ball State University initially refused to sever its relationship with the company (as other universities did, such as Purdue and Louisville), but its Board of Trustees quickly changed its mind. Predictably, students issued demands of the university which included Schnatter delivering an in-person “open and honest” apology to the campus community.

Like the Board of Trustees and students, Ms. Jones doesn’t seem to care much about context.

“Papa John’s founder uses the N-word to describe people of color,” Jones said in an email. “[T]he school district wants to continue to support the sales of Papa John’s pizza as a fundraiser in the district despite the fact of racist language has been used [sic] by the former owner.”

Jones added that “[c]hildren are very impressionable” and noted “we must model … antibigotry behavior for young children [and] show children that black lives and moral integrity matter over financial gain.”

From the story:

The school district pulled its bid award for delivered pizza from a local Papa John’s franchise last September after Superintendent Bob O’Donnell and Business Manager Randy Brown said Schnatter’s racist remarks went against the district’s Climate and Inclusive Excellence policy. The school board approved a contract with a local Domino’s franchise instead.

SCASD food service administrators have recommended the board awards a bid to Papa John’s to provide delivered pizza for the 2019-20 school year, at $6 a pizza estimated to cost $54,000 annually. …

Of three vendors administration solicited quotes from, Papa John’s had the lowest price per pizza, administrators said in a memo. Domino’s quoted $7 per pizza and locally based Pizza Mia quoted $8 per pizza.

According to a memo sent to the board, the district administrators reached out to Papa John’s to learn more about its “commitment to diversity and equity nationally and in the State College community.”

O’Donnell said the district has engaged with many different people concerned about the Papa John’s contract over the past year.

State College administrators said Papa John’s has taken “significant steps” […] to increase support of, representation of and involvement in diverse communities.” Indeed, this past spring the company used one of its buses for an “Unconscious Bias Tour,” making stops at numerous colleges and corporations.

Read the article.

MORE: Student groups hold ‘race relations’ confab in wake of ‘Papa John’ fiasco

MORE: Ball State University fails to do its basic job

IMAGE: Max Sparber / Flickr.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 18 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.