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Opinion: Louisville's Papa John's Call the Right One

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Copyright 2018 The Evansville Courier Co.
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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

New University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi showed bold leadership last week in removing the name of Papa John's from the school's football stadium and scrubbing the founder's name from a program in U of L's business school.

We applaud her.

She took action just two days after Forbes reported that John Schnatter, the founder and former chairman of Louisville-based Papa John's International Inc., had used the N-word during a business meeting in May while discussing how to respond to concerns about racially insensitive statements he made last year.

Schnatter resigned his seat on the University of Louisville board of trustees and his position as chairman of Papa John's on Wednesday.

In stripping Papa John's name from the stadium and the business program, Bendapudi put principle over money.

U of L already faces serious fundraising problems in the wake of scandal and the firing of longtime Athletics Director Tom Jurich, yet Bendapudi chose to do what was right rather than what was expedient.

It's still unclear if U of L will have to repay millions of dollars in sponsorship fees that Schnatter has given and pledged to the school in return for naming rights, but she took a principled stand anyway.

And for good reason.

Schnatter's words were offensive to many students on U of L's campus, especially the 10.4 percent of who are African-American and the many student athletes who otherwise would have had to play games each Saturday in a stadium named for someone who so callously used that hideous and hateful word.

"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 wrote in a letter to the campus community. "The brightest days for this university are still ahead."

Bendapudi said Schnatter agreed with the decision to remove his name from the John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise, to which he contributed $4.5 million to establish in 2014.

She didn't say where he stood on stripping the name of the company, of which he is still a major shareholder, from the stadium, however.

But if her decision costs the school millions of dollars — plus countless other millions that Schnatter may be less-inclined to give in the future — so be it.

Creating a welcoming environment for students of all ethnicities and colors trumps money.

The University of Kentucky, which houses the John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise, cut its ties with Schnatter Friday. Purdue University, which houses the John H. Schnatter Center for Economic Research, should consider this as well.

The decision at U of L, said Benapudi, was hers and hers alone, although she said the University of Louisville's board of trustees had voiced unanimous support.

This editorial originally appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

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July 19, 2018
 
 
 

 

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