Papa John’s makes ‘huge’ donation to historically black NC college fighting to survive

Papa John’s has donated $500,000 to help the historically black Bennett College in North Carolina stay open. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)
Papa John’s has donated $500,000 to help the historically black Bennett College in North Carolina stay open. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File) AP

Papa John’s unveiled plans Thursday to help a struggling black women’s college in North Carolina, as part of the company’s ongoing effort to rebound from accusations of racial insensitivity by its founder.

The pizza chain’s support includes a $500,000 donation to Greensboro-based Bennett College, and a pledge to help raise a total of $5 million “to protect the college’s accreditation.”

“We shared last year that the values that would drive the transformation of Papa John’s would be equity, fairness, respect and opportunity,” said a press release from the company.

“Bennett College...not only shares these values, but embodies them in their continual pursuit of inquiry, civic engagement, social justice, lifelong learning and equity for all.”

The campaign got an additional boost when high-profile supporters like “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett helped publicized the school’s cash crisis. The Chicago Tribune and other news outlets reported this week that Smollett was attacked in Chicago by two men Tuesday who “yelled racial and homophobic slurs, hit him and wrapped a rope around his neck.”

Supporters of the actor responded to the news by giving to the Bennett campaign in his honor, reported the Raleigh News & Observer.

The News & Observer says the campaign “raised $3.2 million as of Wednesday.”

In the case of the Papa John’s donation, it’s part of a transformation began after the Papa John’s founder, John Schnatter, resigned as the company’s CEO amidst accusations of racial insensitivity, according to a Jan. 15 Associated Press story.

Schnatter had criticized the National Football League’s “mishandling of player protests during the national anthem,” saying it hurt Papa John’s profits as a league sponsor, said the AP.

Matters worsened when Schnatter confirmed to Forbes magazine in July that he had used a racial slur during a company conference call. He resigned as CEO and later apologized, according to an article in Restaurant Business.

Bennett College launched its $5 million fund-raising campaign after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission threatened last month to revoke the school’s accreditation for lack of “financial resources,” according to the Greensboro News & Record.

An appeal of the decision is underway, as supporters work to raise the $5 million, the newspaper reported.

Bennett College -- launched in 1873 to educate emancipated slaves -- has set a Feb. 1 target date to meet its campaign goal, according to its website.

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