Papa John May Not Go Away Quietly

Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium

We all know that Papa Johns founder, John Schnatter, used a word that is totally unacceptable. A chain reaction of events followed, one of which was the changing of the name of the University of Louisville football stadium to Cardinal Stadium, dropping Schnatter’s name from the title.

After Schnatter’s unacceptable remarks were made public by Forbes, I immediately looked up and thoroughly read through the naming rights contract between Schnatter and the University. The contract is very one-sided in favor of Schnatter and it gives him rights over the stadium name until December 30th 2040. It appeared as though the name of the stadium wouldn’t change despite the millions of new name suggestions on social media. While it was fun to come up with new names, I highly doubted the name would be changed before the year 2041.

Enter new University president, Neeli Bendapudi. She quickly met with her board and trusted advisors. After the meeting she announced that the Stadium would now be called Cardinal Stadium.

While I was proud of her swift actions, I quickly wondered how it was so easy to change the name despite the contract. It was reported the Schnatter said he was fine with the name change. A few days later, Schnatter said in an interview with WLKY, “I didn’t get, really, notice that they were going to take it down until after the fact,”

Schnatter said he agreed to his name being removed from the school’s Center for Free Enterprise but needed time to think about the stadium.

Bendapudi said that after they decided on the name change, she texted Schnatter to tell him of the decision, but he did not respond.

Bendapudi also said that Schnatter had apologized.

“No, that wasn’t true,” Schnatter told WLKY. “The administration said I apologized. I think I need to apologize to the players and to the students and to the faculty. But I never apologized for taking the name down. I never knew about it. I knew they were taking a look at it, but they told me they’d wait over for the weekend. So that was not true.”

Schnatter has so much going on right now from dealing with his PR firm who blackmailed him to resigning from Papa Johns and being locked out of his Louisville office, that I doubt his name on the stadium is a priority – but I fear it will be in due time.

Schnatter is now saying he shouldn’t have stepped down as chairman of Papa Johns and that he is not going away without a fight. He also said, “I will not allow either my good name or the good name of the company I founded and love to be unfairly tainted.”

While I don’t care what happens with the pizza company or the PR firm, I do care about the name of the stadium.

I fear two things,

  1. Another company comes in and wants to buy the rights and Schnatter reclaims his legal rights. Schnatter will want too much money for the rights and the new company backs out leading to Schnatter demanding his name be restored to the Stadium name.
  2. Schnatter gets all his other troubles cleared leaving only the stadium naming rights left to clear up. He then takes the University to court over breach of contract.

Although  U of L spokesman John Karman said of the new stadium name “The decision is made and it’s final,” and “There won’t be any waffling or wavering,” I foresee a financial settlement to keep both parties out of court. We all know the University doesn’t want to go to court anymore than it already has been recently. And if Schnatter has any hope of restoring his name, he will need to stay out of court as well.

The naming of the stadium is settled but I don’t expect it to be completely over.

For now, just enjoy the stadium and cheer the Cards as you always do. #L1C4

Papa John Cardinal Stadium
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