The University of Louisville is renaming Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium effective immediately, the school announced Friday.
The football stadium will now be called Cardinal Stadium, UofL President Neeli Bendapudi said. Papa John’s founder John Schnatter’s name will also be removed from the school’s Center for Free Enterprise, she said.
“Our community has been fractured by the comments made by former UofL trustee John Schnatter,” Bendapudi said in a statement she read to reporters, adding that the comments were “hurtful and unacceptable.”
“By taking this action, we renew our community’s commitment to speaking up when it matters, doing what is right and coming together as one team – our Cardinal family – to heal and move forward,” Bendapudi said.
Schnatter resigned from the UofL Board of Trustees Wednesday after admitting that he said the N-word in a conference call designed to prevent public relations disasters. Schnatter also stepped down as chairman of the pizza chain’s board of directors late Wednesday night.
Some in the UofL community, including football players, called on Bendapudi to change the stadium’s name after Schnatter’s comment.
AT ALL https://t.co/84JlAPznli
— Jaylen Smith (@JaylenSmith_12) July 12, 2018
UofL’s Pan-African Studies Chair Ricky Jones tweeted Wednesday: “In a couple of months, black students from the #UniversityOfLouisville and other schools will be expected to suit up and play football in ‘Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.’ Anybody with a moral compass would see how that’s a little . . . shall we say . . . problematic.”
Schnatter, who has naming rights of the stadium until 2040, supported her decision to remove his name from the stadium, Bendapudi said. He apologized to her, adding that he didn’t want to be a “distraction,” she said.
The contract states that there are a few ways for the stadium’s name to change, both relying on action from Schnatter. There is no clear recourse named in the contract that would allow the university to break the contract should a scandal like this happen.
“We understand this comes with certain consequences, and we have examined all of those,” Bendapudi said, not clarifying what the consequences could be. “This is our best decision.”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer applauded UofL.
“I appreciate how quickly they’ve moved on this and the cooperation I’m sure they had with John Schnatter on making it happen,” Fischer told Insider Louisville. “There can be no interpretation of any kind of racism, use of slurs, we pride ourselves on being a compassionate city, so this was an important step they took.”
After Forbes broke the story, Schnatter’s name was swiftly removed from Nachand Fieldhouse in Jeffersonville, Ind., and a spokesperson with Papa John’s confirmed to Insider Louisville Friday morning that the company is in the process of pulling Schnatter’s image from its marketing and advertising.
Following the news that Schnatter had left the pizza chain that he founded in 1984, Papa John’s shares climbed. As of 1:05 p.m. Friday, Papa John’s shares are $54.31, up more than 1 percent since the start of the day.
Friday’s decision did not touch on UofL’s ties with Papa John’s as a company, including an exclusive deal that allows only Papa John’s pizza to be sold in the stadium.
Bendapudi said she is trying to differentiate between Schnatter and his company, noting multiple times how many people who work at Papa John’s and how cutting ties completely could impact them.
The school has not looked into new sponsorship deals to rename the stadium, Bendapudi said. While the decision to rename the stadium was effective immediately, Bendapudi was not sure when signage will be removed from the stadium.
This story has been updated.