A rapidly-developing situation could have steep repercussions for one Power Five football venue.
Wednesday, John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s, resigned not only as the chairman of the pizza giant but also gave up his seat on Louisville’s Board of Trustees after he acknowledged that he used the N-word during a business conference call this past May. The slur usage came during a call that involved, among others, a marketing agency that was helping “prepare him for an interview to try to repair his public image” in the wake of the NFL’s national anthem controversy.
Papa John’s Stadium, of course, is the home of the U of L’s football Cardinals. Given the controversy surrounding Schnatter, U-L president Neeli Bendapudi confirmed Thursday that she and the university are “evaluating” the status of the stadium’s naming rights.
“We haven’t had a chance to discuss it formally but yes, certainly we are aware that there is a lot of interest in this and we are hoping to come together to discuss it,” Bendapudi said by way of WDRB.com, adding that she needs more time “to think this through.”
Schnatter contributed $20 million toward the construction of the stadium that bears the name of the company he founded. Of that total, $14 million came from Schnatter personally and the remaining through Papa John’s International on a deal that runs through 2040. The structure of that deal, though, could prove troublesome for U-L officials. From ESPN.com:
In a complicated arrangement, the school’s deal is with Schnatter himself, not the Papa John’s brand, and provides that if he leaves the company, Schnatter can rename the building. His current deal with the university runs through 2040.
Another complication could come from the players themselves as a pair of prominent Cardinals took to Twitter Thursday to voice their opinions on the development, with a handful of others, including tight end Jay Banks (HERE), linebacker P.J. Blue (HERE), wide receiver Josh Johnson (HERE), defensive lineman GG Robinson (HERE) and wide receiver Keion Wakefield (HERE), retweeting the tweets below in a show of solidarity.
So, if players — and a growing segment of the fan base — get their wish and the name of the stadium is changed, what should it be moving forward? While defensive lineman Henry Famurewa had an admirable idea recognizing the recent past…
… it was Wakefield who had a slamdunk suggestion and one that Schnatter should seriously consider if his agreement does indeed allow him to rename the stadium if he leaves his company. Which he has.
You win, Mr. Wakefield. There are a lot of ways to honor the life and legacy of the Louisville Slugger, and this would be one of the greatest ones for The Greatest — especially given the circumstances that led to this discussion in the first place.