After admitting to using the n-word during a conference call, Papa John’s founder John Schnatter is out as company chairman. He has also resigned from Louisville’s board of trustees. The name of the school’s football stadium—Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium—is a more complex issue.
Schnatter had been a huge benefactor of the school for years. That includes a strange naming rights deal that may be more difficult to get around, without Schnatter’s cooperation.
On Wednesday, Louisville players began to voice their displeasure at the name of the stadium. A few called for it to be renamed “ASAP.”
Louisville’s stadium naming rights deal is with John Schnatter himself, though, not the Papa John’s company.
That means he controls what the stadium is named, through the expiration of the deal in 2040. From ABC News:
Schnatter remains prominently linked to the school through Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. In a complicated arrangement, the school’s deal is with Schnatter himself, not the Papa John’s brand, and provides that if he leaves the company, Schnatter can rename the building. His current deal with the university runs through 2040.
There’s a chance that he will surrender the name willingly. Louisville can also try and buy him out.
School president Neeli Bendapudi says that the administration is looking into the issue, per WDRB.com:
University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi said she is “evaluating” the status of university naming-rights agreements tied to John Schnatter, including that of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
“We haven’t had a chance to discuss it formally but yes, certainly we are aware that there is a lot of interest in this and we are hoping to come together to discuss it,” she said.
If Louisville can pull it off, the school shouldn’t have a tough time finding a new name. Receiver Keion Wakefield had a pretty good idea, which he shared via Twitter: Muhammed Ali Stadium.