Jazz end partnership with Papa John’s; University of Utah may drop company as well

FILE- This Dec. 21, 2017, file photo shows a slice of cheese pizza at the Papa John's pizza shop in Quincy, Mass. Papa John’s plans to pull Schnatter’s image from marketing materials after reports he used a racial slur. Schnatter apologized Wednesday, July 11, and said he would resign as chairman after Forbes reported that he used the slur during a media training session. Schnatter had stepped down as CEO last year after criticizing NFL protests. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

The Utah Jazz have notified Papa John’s Pizza of their intent to end their relationship with the company, The Salt Lake Tribune learned Thursday.

According to NBA sources, the Jazz informed Papa John’s of their decision earlier in the week. The national pizza chain had been a team sponsor for over a decade.

The University of Utah is is also considering severing ties with the pizza chain, according to a statement released by the school on Thursday.

“The University of Utah strives to be a welcoming and inclusive place for people of all backgrounds,” the statement said. "As a result, the University of Utah is reviewing its Papa John’s contract and evaluating other options for the Union food court. Additionally, the U. has taken immediate action to remove all images of John Schnatter from the location and is working to replace the pizza boxes featuring his image”.

Schnatter, the company founder, has come under fire following reports he used the n-word during a company conference call. He previously had criticized the NFL for not cracking down on players who protested during the national anthem, claiming that the protests were hurting Papa John’s bottom line.

Schnatter apologized for the slur, but the company removed him from the board, and his hometown University of Louisville took the Papa John’s name off its football stadium. Multiple professional sports teams have since dropped their business ties with the company.

Multiple teams immediately severed ties with Papa John’s. The Jazz took some time to make a decision. According to sources, the club didn’t want to make a knee-jerk move regarding their partnership with the company, which spanned 15 years.

The Jazz also didn’t want to punish local Papa John’s franchises, which were caught in the middle of the controversy, through no fault of their own. Those factors made the Jazz’s decision-making process a bit more difficult.

Ultimately, the organization sought opinions from players such as Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors, sources say. Coaches and key members of the organization were given a voice in the matter as well.

The Jazz, in the end, couldn’t separate Papa John’s from Schnatter’s comments, and the Jazz as a franchise decided that ending the sponsorship was the best way to go.

This isn’t the first time the Jazz have made their voices and actions in social matters known. The team presented a unified front when the national anthem protest movement took hold two years ago. To acknowledge the social unrest around the country, the Jazz as a team have locked arms in a show of unity for the national anthem over the past two seasons.

In response to the Papa John’s controversy, Mitchell, the rising second-year star who played collegiately at Louisville, took to Twitter to urge the university to name its football stadium after Muhammad Ali. The late legendary heavyweight champion, who was stripped of his title after refusing induction into the armed forces to protest the Vietnam War and later became a beloved global icon, was from Louisville. Mitchell played for the Cardinals from 2015-17.

Other Jazz players, such as Thabo Sefolosha and Ekpe Udoh are socially conscious and have made their thoughts known publicly over the years.

The Jazz have both publicly and privately encouraged their players to use their voices. This week, the Jazz as an organization did the same.