'We are deeply offended and disappointed': Local owner responds to Papa John's controversy

'We are deeply offended and disappointed': Local owner responds to Papa John's controversy
Papa John's will remove Schnatter from their marketing. (Source: Papa John's)
Papa John's will remove Schnatter from their marketing. (Source: Papa John's)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - PJ Cheese, the owner of Papa John's locations throughout the Richmond, Hampton Roads and Charlottesville areas, is responding to the comments made by Papa John's International founder, John Schnatter.

"We are deeply offended and disappointed by the actions of Papa John's International's founder. In no way does this represent our viewpoints or values," PJ Cheese released in a statement.

Schnatter resigned from his position as chairman of Papa John's after reports he used the "N-Word" during a work conference call.

"We certainly don't share those views or beliefs," said PJ Cheese owner Matt Sanders. "John Schnatter isn't Papa John...All 500 plus employees here in Central Virginia are Papa John."

He says this week, local employees have been targeted.

"Our employees have received calls at the store, kind of hate calls if you will. These folks are just like them. They're out working and trying to pay the bills," Sanders said.

Schnatter has resigned and issued an apology, but some people are taking to Facebook saying they won't be going back to Papa John's.

"We've gotten some of that," said Sanders regarding the social media comments.

Sanders wants people to know the local restaurants are not operated by the Papa John's corporation, and do not report to the man who made the offensive comments.

"We're an inclusive company," Sanders said. "We have folks from all races, walks and creeds that work for us, and I'm proud of all of them. We're the same folks that have been serving you for 25-plus years."

Sanders and his franchises are heavily involved with the local community, which he says makes Schnatter's actions even more disappointing.

"We've raised over 1 million dollars for our local schools and charities over the last 10 years. We're heavily involved and a lot of our stores are in urban areas and were so proud to be there," Sanders said.

He even agrees with the corporation now removing Schnatter's images from pizza boxes and everything associated with the company.

"A stupid comment made by someone far, far away. Really far away. We don't want it to impact our business. We're bigger than that," said Sanders.

Over the past few years, several Papa John's restaurants have earned the NBC 12 Hall of Fame award, and they've never appeared on the critical violation list.

PJ Cheese released the following statement on Friday:

We want to make it clear to our community that racism has no place at Papa John's. We respect each and every employee and customer regardless of their race, sex, age, and any other distinguishing factor. We will continue to serve our employees and our customers as we always have. RESPECTFULLY. Our team and local owners have been proud to serve and support our community since 1993. We believe in Better and are focused on that in our words and actions to positively impact the communities we live in and serve. That will continue to be the strong spirit of our Papa John's local ownership and team and we will continue to build confidence in who we are and what we stand for locally.

The University of Louisville is also removing the Papa John's name from Cardinal Stadium.

Copyright 2018 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.