Is my understanding of what Papa John's CEO said accurate?

I have read several news accounts (and they can be found everywhere) but my understanding of the use of the racial slur was as follows:

The CEO was in a meeting addressing the heat that Papa Johns had been taking for speaking out in favor of NFL players standing for the national anthem and not remaining in the locker room or taking a knee. Some had said that stance was racist against blacks. In the meeting he denied that he was racist and was apparently exasperated by the criticism and said something to the effect that “Colonel Sanders called black people niggers and he didn’t get in trouble for it.”

Afterwards, because he used “the n word” he was pressured to resign.

Is my understanding accurate? If so, then WTF? Isn’t it plain that he wasn’t using the word, that he was simply describing another person’s use of the word?

If this new standard applies, should I be barred from being a CEO, a civic officer or otherwise because of my use of the word above?

That seems pretty clear to me that the CEO is trying to excuse/justify usage of the racial slur, which seems like a pretty dumb thing for a CEO to say.

I agree with iiandyiiii on almost nothing, but I do agree with him here.

Perhaps I’m being dense. He did not use the slur. He described another person using the slur to illustrate that the other person engaged in far worse conduct, but did not take heat from the media.

IOW, he seemingly acknowledged that Sanders’ use of the slur was awful, yet Sanders still did not take the heat that he had.

I’m not sure if it is actually true that Colonel Sanders ever said that, but even if so, he has been dead for decades. Progress has been made in the interim.

Fine. So let’s concede that his argument was pretty bad. It still doesn’t mean that the CEO used the word to insult or to describe black people.

I think it’s likely (based on no proof) that this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. When I’ve seen people let go for harassment or inappropriate behavior or inappropriate jokes, it has never been the case that people are confused. Mostly it’s, “well, it’s about time. I can’t believe it took that long.”

In this case, he may have had a history of inappropriate or racist behavior, but this is the one that just took it too far. I think there was a third party on the phone at the time (marketing firm?), and maybe that also played into the decision.

Also, his argument seems to be, well, the football thing may make me seem racist, but I’m not as racist as Colonel Sanders. As you say, that’s a pretty weak argument. He’s racist, but at least he keeps his n-words to himself!

People are just looking for ANY excuse to rail on about racism - real, perceived or totally imaginary. Just yesterday, a local BBQ chain was in the news because they used color-coded stickers on delivery orders, and when they ran out of stickers, an employee wrote “black/negro” on the order, using the term negro as the specific Spanish term so there were no mix-ups by the Latino drivers.

Didn’t go over too well.

Ah, I see. Your interpretation of his comments are:

CEO: Damn, I do hate black people but they can’t call me out on it because I haven’t exactly said that. Hell, Colonel Sanders came right out and said it, and he didn’t get in trouble, so why should I get in trouble for hating blacks secretly while he did it openly!

Whereas my interpretation is:

CEO: These accusations of racism are absurd. I have no issue with black people at all. But even if I did, why are people picking through my brain or my words? Even if they did find something racist, which they won’t, Colonel Sanders was openly racist and didn’t get in trouble. My conduct is orders of magnitude less than his and I should not be subject to such an inquisition.

Is that fair? I think we could all agree that if he said exactly “the n word” instead of using the word, he would have kept his job. So is it merely the use of the word that is now bad regardless of intent? Should I resign my civic posts because of the OP?

And, by doing that, he was trying to excuse himself. He just favorably brought up that Sanders used the n-word. He didn’t bring it up as “this is obviously wrong and he shouldn’t have gotten away with it.” He brought it up as “He got away with being racist, so I should, too.”

It’s such a dumb argument that, to me at least, it comes across as an excuse to use the word. Yes, Sanders got away with racism a long time ago. That doesn’t mean that he should get away with it now. So why bring that up?

But, mostly, he was already in hot water for possible racism. And then he just happens to pull out a statement that uses the n-word? That’s obviously a bad idea. Combined with the other actions, he just convinced everyone that he was a racist.

This, exactly. He was using Col. Sanders’ bad behavior to excuse/justify/minimize his own. He was saying, “Hey, I may be a racist piece of shit, but this guy was worse and he got away with it!”

At the least, it was a terrible argument, and at best, it was a completely tone deaf and idiotic thing to say. Either way, that guy can’t be the face of the company and at least he’s smart enough to recognize that.

Unfortunately for them, his name is also part of the company’s name, so I don’t know how they’re going to reconcile that, but that’s their problem.

That isn’t really the point. The way I read this story, a whole series of previous remarks had offended people as being racist. He tried to defend himself by saying that Colonel Sanders allegedly used the n-word all the time and never got in trouble for it (in the good ol’ says, that we wish we had again), and also don’t forget Schnatter’s lovely reminiscences about his childhood in Indiana, where they used to drag black people behind pickup trucks until they died. He seems to be saying, hey, I’d never do that (at least, not any more) so what are y’all raggin’ on me for?

The guy is a transparent racist whose criteria for “not a racist” are:

  1. Do not call African-Americans the n-word to their face, and
  2. Do not drag them behind a pickup truck until they’re dead.

Don’t do those things, kids, and it’s all good.

That’s why he was dumped. He’s too racist and/or too stupid to recognize his own racism.

Which is still holding out the situation with Colonel Sanders as having been the right thing. It’s saying that CEOs should be able to get away with at least some level of racism.

Comparative racism is never a good idea.

I don’t see how this is relevant to the thread, but I find it very unlikely that a publicly traded company is going to make decisions about firing their CEO or Chairman (or whatever he was) for totally imaginary reasons. I also think you underestimate how much sway a Chairman has, and how his behavior must have been in order to get him terminated.

No, I think the interpretation is secondary to my main point that this was likely just the latest in a long string of iffy behavior. Large, publicly traded companies don’t just make rash decisions.

Anyway, if, as I surmise, this is just one example of bad behavior, then he may have lost the benefit of the doubt as to how his comments should be interpreted. That is, given past behavior (admittedly hypothetical), there was no reason to interpret what he said in the most positive light possible.

To follow up: I said his argument was poor, not because it covered up latent racism, but because it referred to something that happened years in the past. It would be like if the Alabama governor today used a racial slur but said, “George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door and people said he was a hero. What is one word compared to that?”

The argument, as another poster said, fails to take into account the change in culture since Colonel Sanders died in 1980 (if he indeed ever did use the term) and makes it a very poor argument.

But I still don’t agree that it is a cover up for racism. If I am a Senator from Massachusetts and get a DUI, am asked to resign, and then say, “But Ted Kennedy was probably DUI AND he killed someone but nobody made him resign!” am I condoning DUI?

You’re not condoning it, but you’re not addressing it either. You’re just making an end-run around the question to deflect responsibility for your own wrongdoing.

Sorry - thought the thread was about excessively trivial racial slur complaints, and some people’s tendency to see imaginary racial slights because of their hypersensitivity.

I disagree. It is all about the image and the media coverage. They don’t want to be seen, whether they are right or wrong, as protecting a racist. Even if he is innocent of the accusation. If it was not for the public perception, these corporations would not give a shit if he secretly hated blacks, Asians, or gays if he kept the bottom line profitable.

As you say, this is pure speculation. Do you disagree that he likely would not have been forced to resign if instead of using the actual word, his comments were otherwise the same but in place he said, literally and quote “the n word”?

I still think he was saying, essentially, “it can’t be a big deal if Col Sanders got away with it”.

Think about it this way. He was already considered racially insensitive for his NFL remarks and lost the CEO position. Now, the board decided to fire him as chairman, the guy whose name is the company name, because he’s too racist. They declared that the John of Papa John is too racist to stay - do you think they made that decision lightly or arbitrarily? Do you think they were worried about the effect on the stock when they declared the company founder to be racist?

Anyway, this is speculation on my part, but from my experience working at many large, publicly traded companies, they wouldn’t make that decision lightly.

That’s all I really have to say here.