Shaquille O’Neal named new Papa John’s spokesman

Updated: Mar. 22, 2019 at 10:03 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal will be the new face of Louisville-based Papa John’s.

The pizza giant issued a statement Friday morning announcing that the four-time NBA champion will join the company’s board of directors, invest in nine stores in the Atlanta area and “be an ambassador for the Papa John’s brand.”

O’Neal, who’s also an analyst on TNT’s popular “Inside The NBA” show, has invested in several restaurants in the past and currently owns a minority stake in the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

“In addition to his business acumen, Shaquille understands how to build lasting connections with consumers and energize employees,” said Steve Ritchie, President and CEO of Papa John’s.

“This is a triple threat opportunity for me,” O’Neal said in the statement. “I am excited to join the Board and to help lead from the top, while also investing in nine stores in my home town of Atlanta and being an ambassador for the brand. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board and using my experience in business and community to build on the progress being made at Papa John’s. Papa John’s is building a better culture, and I want to be a part of improving the Company from the inside out.”

Papa John’s suffered through a dreadful year in 2018, following a bumpy 2017 in which the chain was ousted as the official pizza of the NFL because of founder John Schnatter’s critical remarks of league leadership amid the national anthem protests.

And last year, Schnatter was accused of using a racial slur during a media training conference call. Schnatter, long a staple in Papa John’s advertisements, eventually resigned as chairman but stayed on the board of directors until he and the company reached a settlement just this month.

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