John Schnatter was known as “Papa John” after starting the chain in 1984. The company is now distancing itself from the former CEO and dropping the apostrophe in its name.
Schnatter responded to the renaming in a statement Tuesday evening, saying, “Try as they may, they can’t have Papa Johns without Papa John.”
The pizza chain, which formerly used the possessive name “Papa John’s” for its branding and marketing, will now be known as “Papa Johns” for all customer-facing purposes and written references going forward.
“Considering the enduring association of Papa John with the brand, the company’s change to the brand logo today is misplaced,” Schnatter said. “Instead of being obsessed with Papa John and irrelevant changes to the brand logo, the company should become obsessed once again with making quality Papa John’s pizza consistently.”
He acknowledged the evolution of brands over time, and said “it’s gratifying” to see that many of the company’s long-time concepts remain, including “high quality ingredients, customer service, logo colors, slogans, and more.” However, he maintained that management has painted him in a falsely negative light.
“My criticism of company management over the past three years has rested largely on their refusal to admit they were wrong about the false media narrative about me and my legacy, and their failure to maintain a commitment to the principles on which we built the company brand, including consistent product quality with every single pizza made,” Schnatter stated.
Schnatter stepped down as CEO in 2018 after criticizing the NFL — which had been sponsored by Papa John’s — for its handling of the national anthem kneeling protests. He later resigned as chairman of the board following controversy over a training exercise he participated in, during which he used the n-word.
Papa Johns revealed plans for its new identity in a press release issued Tuesday, but it did not specifically address the name change or the reasoning behind it. A representative for Papa Johns would only say that removing the apostrophe was “not abnormal” for a longtime brand.