Papa John’s racist voicemail rant gets employees fired

Papa John's racist voicemail accidentally sent to a customer in Sanford, Fla., got two employees fired and prompted a public apology from the pizza chain's CEO. The voicemail isn't the first incident of racism among Papa John's employees.

Diane Bondareff/Invision for Papa John's International/AP/File
Papa John's Founder, Chairman and CEO John Schnatter takes to the streets of New York's Times Square, last year. Schnatter issued a public apology Monday for a racist voicemail accidentally sent to a customer in Sanford, Fla., by a Papa John's employee, who has since been fired.

Once again, Papa John’s is having to apologize for an incident of racial name-calling among members of its staff.

Two of the chain‘s employees have been fired after a delivery man in Sanford, Fla. accidentally left a voicemail laden with racial epithets on a customer’s answering machine.

After delivering pizzas to the customer and his wife Sunday evening, the Papa John’s employee mistakenly “butt-dialed” the patron while talking to a fellow worker. In the resulting racist voicemail, which lasts about four minutes, he complains about his $5 tip and sings an “N-word”-centric version of the famous “Figaro” aria from the opera “The Barber of Seville.”

"I guess that's the only requirement for being a [insert N-word] in Sanford,” he says as his fellow employee laughs. "Yeah, they give me five bucks there – fine outstanding African-American gentleman of the community.”

The customer posted a video of the voicemail on YouTube, saying that he and his wife paid "21 percent as usual." The video ended with the camera panning down to a Papa John's pizza box with CEO John Schnatter's face on it. Schnatter issued a public apology on the chain’s Facebook page Monday.

“I am extremely concerned to learn about the reprehensible language used by two former employees in one of our restaurants,” the statement reads. “Their thinking and actions defy both my personal and the company's values, and everything for which this company stands. The employees responsible for this absolutely unacceptable behavior were immediately terminated.”

“I am very sorry that anyone would be exposed to these hurtful and painful words by any person involved in any way with our company,” he continues. I have personally reached out to our customer to share my own thoughts and offer my deepest apology." 

Sanford has become nationally synonymous with racial tensions over the past year, in the wake of George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager (Mr. Zimmerman and his supporters maintain he shot in self-defense onder Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law). Zimmerman’s trial for second degree murder is set to begin June 10.

For Papa John’s, meanwhile, this is at least the second incident of racism among its employees to receive national attention in less than two years. In January 2012, an employee in New York was fired for using a racial epithet to describe an Asian customer on a receipt.

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