LOUISVILLE — Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium is no more.
The home of the University of Louisville football team will now simply be known as Cardinal Stadium, according to a statement issued by new Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi on Friday afternoon.
The move came in response to the reported use of a racial slur by Papa John’s founder, and Jeffersonville native, John Schnatter in a conference call earlier this year. According to a Forbes report released Wednesday, Schnatter used the N-word during a media training call in May.
“In moments of crisis, the best communities find a way to come together. Over the last 24 hours our community has been fractured by the comments made by former UofL trustee John Schnatter. These comments were hurtful and unacceptable, and they do not reflect the values of our university,” Bendapudi said in her statement. “I have decided, with the support of our Board of Trustees, to rename our football stadium “Cardinal Stadium” and to remove John Schnatter’s name from the Center for Free Enterprise at our College of Business effective immediately.”
The stadium had been named Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium since it opened in September of 1998 after Schnatter donated a reported $5 million for the naming rights. Louisville has had a decided homefield advantage there, posting a 94-32 record at the facility since it opened. However after news of the Forbes story broke, many Cardinals took to social media to voice their displeasure about playing in a stadium bearing the name of Schnatter's company.
“We need to change the name of the stadium ASAP, I’m not here for it,” junior wide receiver Seth Dawkins wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
Friday, Bendapudi met with the players to discuss the school's decision.
“I do believe our voice was heard and we made a huge impact on this city and this university, I’m just proud of my guys,” redshirt junior running back Trey Smith said.
“She understood the feedback and the reaction. She supported us and made it clear that she has a duty to us as student-athletes,” redshirt junior cornerback P.J. Mbanasor added. “She told us about her background, she told us her perspective and we agreed that positivity is the mindset that we need to move forward from this.”
Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino also released a statement Friday praising the move.
“In light of recent events, I am pleased that our university has made the correct decision to remove ‘Papa John’s’ from the name of our stadium,” Petrino said. “Our football team and our city all promote environments of inclusiveness. The university’s quick action to rename our stadium has only reaffirmed its commitment to such inclusiveness. I applaud their decision.”
A few hours after the Forbes story broke Wednesday, Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore had Schnatter’s name removed from the Nachand Fieldhouse downtown and said that he would give back the $400,000 that Schnatter donated for renovations of the gym. Later that night it was reported that Schnatter resigned from the University of Louisville board of trustees and as Papa John’s chairman. Schnatter stepped down as CEO last year after blaming poor pizza sales on the uproar surrounding NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.
Friday, Papa John’s began pulling Schnatter’s image from its marketing.