While numerous professional franchises and college programs have suspended sponsorship agreements with Papa John’s, the University of Wisconsin’s remains “unchanged at the moment.”
That quote comes from the Wisconsin State Journal’s Todd D. Milewski, who cites a UW spokesperson. Papa John’s buys advertising assets, primarily radio commercials on UW football and men’s basketball broadcasts, through Badger Sports Properties, a division of Learfield Communications, the spokesperson told Milewski.
Papa John’s founder John Schnatter resigned last week after reports revealed he used a racial slur during a company conference call in May. Schnatter, who stepped down as the company’s CEO in December, has acknowledged using the slur, though he later wrote “it was a mistake” to step down in a letter to the directors of Papa John’s board, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
MIlewski’s report included more details behind UW’s decision to make no change to its sponsorship agreement with Papa John’s:
UW Athletics officials weighed their dealings with Papa John’s after that became public, according to a statement issued Monday night, but decided not to interrupt the sponsorship arrangement.
”Wisconsin Athletics is fully committed to fostering an atmosphere of inclusiveness and we have no tolerance for discrimination of any kind,” the UW Athletics statement read. “Upon first learning of the hurtful and insensitive comments made by Mr. Schnatter, we initiated internal discussions about our relationship with Papa John’s. We are supportive of the steps that have been taken in the aftermath of those comments, including the resignation of Mr. Schnatter from his position as chairman of the company’s board and the removal of Mr. Schnatter’s image from the company logo.
”Though our working relationship with local Papa John’s restaurants remains unchanged at the moment, we will be closely monitoring further action by the company to ensure that its values align with ours.”
As mentioned above, numerous athletic associations have already suspended their relationships with Papa John’s. Oregon State became the latest on Monday, following at least 20 other professional and college programs. Among the group of college programs, the University of Louisville is removing Schnatter’s name from its football stadium and business school, and the the University of Kentucky is also removing Schnatter’s name from its business school. Morehouse College in Atlanta also cut ties with Papa John’s.
While it’s important to acknowledge the “at the moment” phrasing in UW’s statement, it remains surprising (to me, at least) that the university has decided to continue its agreement with Papa John’s. Perhaps there’s more to come, or perhaps the university’s sponsorship agreement with the pizza company has proven too fruitful, in the university’s eyes, to immediately suspend. Without knowing the complete details of the agreement, it’s impossible to say.