It's no secret that America exists in a polarized atmosphere politically and socially. And sports are not immune to the winds of change within the world around them. The act of kneeling during the National Anthem in protest has dominated headlines in and out of sports, and racially charged statements in and around the sports world have brought swift condemnations, firings and subsequent apologies.
The latest controversy to swirl around sports comes from one of its sponsors, Papa John's. Founder John Schnatter, who had already been forced to step down as CEO after saying National Anthem protests had hurt the company's sales (and subsequently seeing the NFL drop them as a sponsor), got himself in more hot water when it was revealed he used the n-word during a PR meeting with a marketing agency.
Schnatter has since admitted he said it, but has complained that others have used it in the past and not gotten in trouble and even saying he was pushed into using the word. He has now removed himself from the company he founded and sports leagues like Major League Baseball are distancing themselves from Papa John's even further.
The Astros, in a press release last week said they were disappointed by Schnatter, but reaffirmed their commitment to Houston Pizza Ventures, the local company that owns Papa John's franchises locally and partners with the Astros.
Even if the Astros weren't sincere in their sentiments, and it seems pretty clear they absolutely were, this is a no brainer. Schnatter sounds either completely detached from reality, a total moron or simply a racist who doesn't know any better. Whatever the case, he has no place in a league that is dominated by players of color as all three major sports leagues are.
In Houston, the most diverse city in America, it just smacks as lunacy to say something so stupid. But, then again, our sports owners aren't free of controversy. Texans owner Bob McNair has repeatedly made headlines referring to player's kneeling as something akin to allowing inmates to "run the asylum." It has been widely reported that he told African American players on his own team how disappointed he was when former President Barak Obama was elected. And, more recently, he said his only regret was apologizing for his statements.
He didn't exactly drop the n-word, but it's a pattern that, like Schnatter, is inconsistent with the values of sports and the city Houston.