Papa John’s founder John Schnatter is apologizing after reportedly using a racial slur during a conference call in May.
The apology Wednesday comes after Forbes cited an anonymous source saying the pizza chain’s marketing firm broke ties with the company afterward.
Forbes said Schnatter used the N-word during a media training exercise. When asked how he would distance himself from racist groups, Schnatter reportedly complained that Colonel Sanders never faced a backlash for using the word.
In a statement from Papa John’s, Schnatter said reports attributing use of “inappropriate and hurtful” language to him were true. He said, “Regardless of the context, I apologize.”
Schnatter stepped down as CEO last year after blaming slowing sales growth on the outcry surrounding football players kneeling during the national anthem. He remains chairman.