Former Papa John's CEO John Schnatter has a problem with his mouth. First, it was his offending his biggest partner, the NFL, forcing him to step into the role as Chairman, not CEO. Now he's lost even that after, in an internal company conference call--ironically about dealing with public relations crises--Schnatter uttered the N-word.
“Colonel Sanders called blacks n—–s,” Schnatter said, before complaining that Sanders never faced public backlash.
Yes, Colonel Sanders--the real one--may have used that word. But not publicly, even in the 1960s, according to one of his biographers. (Who wrote "Harland Sanders seems to have been utterly without racial prejudice of any kind.") I don't believe that Schnatter appears to be a racist, either. But he's probably right in that if Sanders had used the N-word, he would not have been forced from his own company.
Times certainly have changed. The N-word should be unacceptable in any context, just like denying the Holocaust, calling for Jews to be taken to the ovens, or any number of actually offensive racial or religious terms. Schnatter was incredibly stupid to utter it in any forum where he could be quoted, internally or publicly. He deserves the criticism.
But does he deserve to have his name expunged from history, and his company ruined? Personally, I think that's an unfair punishment, and it reflects a liberal bias against "The White Man."
Sensing an opportunity to play to the liberal tune, running-scared Major League Baseball teams and the University of Louisville declared Schnatter's name to be damnatio memoriae. It is to be expunged, consigned to oblivion, and removed from all of history.
Meanwhile, rappers like Kendrick Lamar have faced the music (pun intended) for promoting N-word loaded lyrics (frequently frosted with an enrobing of F-bombs). Jeremy Helligar raised an all-too-loaded question writing in Variety in May whether it's okay for black celebrities to make mountains of money off the N-word, while others can't utter it in any context.
If you are going to accept royalties from album sales and concert revenue from both black and white fans, you can’t legitimately expect them to consume your music differently. Would Lamar have reacted the same way to a black fan? Did he really think a starstruck teenage girl who probably has never been in front of such a massive crowd would instinctively know that she was supposed to censor herself when he doesn’t? Is it really fair to have one set of rules for black fans and another for white fans?
There's clearly one set of rules for black people, fans of rap or not, and white people, especially white men with $1.5 billion dollar companies. It's not surprising, or even wrong, to expect the chairman of a public company to be held to a higher standard than a teenage rap fan on stage. But is it really necessary for the company to be harmed, potentially many of its employees to lose jobs, investors to lose stock value, and many others to lose financially and in other ways, because one man spoke (in a context not using it directed at anyone, but literally in air quotes) a word heard 10,000 times a day used by rappers who profit from it with no negative result?
This is more than a double-standard. It's a cultural witch hunt. Schnatter is presumed to be a racist because he's white and male and rich. The offended class, black people, whether rich or poor, are presumed to be victims, and incapable of racism. Therefore, Schnatter, whether he's expressed any racist views in the past, must be a closet racist, and because actual racist groups endorsed his use of the word (of course they did!), he must be associated with them.
It's silly and demented logic.
Schnatter was wrong, and breathtakingly stupid. But his punishment is beyond all justice--even social justice. If our society is to mete our this kind of social justice for the use of a word which itself should be banned from existence, then it's only fitting that record labels, online distributors of music, and streaming services should stop royalties for lyrics and songs that also use that word for profit.
If the social justice warriors want actual social justice against rich white men, they should also apply it to themselves.