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Hoops Happening: (UPDATE) Will the Lynx claw their way out of the partnership with Papa John’s?

This is today in women’s basketball for Thursday July 12, 2018!

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2016 WNBA Finals - Game Three
Minnesota Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve has no time for nonsense.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

UPDATE: On Friday July 13, 2018, the Minnesota Lynx provided an update on this situation through a statement issued directly to Swish Appeal: “The Minnesota Lynx have suspended all current promotions with Papa John’s and will continue to evaluate the direction of their company in light of recent events.”

The pizza pies came tumbling down swift and heavy yesterday for Papa John’s following a report by Forbes that the company’s founder, John Schnatter, used the reviled N-word during a conference call.

With the pizza chain already embattled over Schnatter’s comments pertaining to the NFL’s handling (or mishandling) of player protests, Schnatter was left little choice but to resign.

In comments after stepping down, Schnatter said, “News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media training session regarding race are true. Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society.”

Of course, this sentiment is true: Racism has no place in our society. But this message rings somewhat hollow coming from Schnatter, especially when juxtaposed against what he actually said during the meeting.

In the Forbes piece, Noah Kirsch characterized Schnatter’s comments and tone this way:

On the May call, Schnatter was asked how he would distance himself from racist groups online. He responded by downplaying the significance of his NFL statement. “Colonel Sanders called blacks n-----s,” Schnatter said, before complaining that Sanders never faced public backlash.

In effect, Schnatter minimized his original mistakes and swept the importance of all of this under the rug. But that wasn’t enough, obviously, so he went ahead and pined for a bygone era in American history where Colonel Sanders called people the N-word without consequence.

That a conference call aimed at preventing a future public relations nightmare turned into an even bigger debacle proves that authenticity can’t be faked. If the goal is to avoid seeming racist rather than to avoid being racist, you’ve already failed. The only acceptable goal is to eradicate racism in all its forms, from wherever it may grow — whether in individuals, in a company’s culture or in society at-large.

But Papa John’s missed all of the points, choosing instead to entrust its embattled founder to fix a problem he already had demonstrated an inability to handle. The fallout, of course, furthers the lesson that the choice to patchwork optics rather than to clean up a problem in a meaningful way never comes to a good end.

After all of this went down yesterday, a fan tweeted a question to Minnesota Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve, asking if the organization would drop Papa John’s as a sponsor.

Instead of hiding from the question, or from the issue, Reeve replied with unequivocal repudiation of racism and made it clear that dropping Papa John’s as a sponsor should be an option worthy of discussion.

But today, the Lynx organization was back to advertising discounted pies to their fan base to celebrate the Lynx’s Wednesday win over the Indiana Fever.

Minnesota Lynx via Twitter

Schnatter may be out at Papa John’s but that doesn’t mean the issues are resolved. That he was even allowed to do the conference call at all points to broader leadership issues at the company and an overall culture of cluelessness.

With the Lynx being a championship organization, in a forward-thinking league that makes diversity and inclusion priorities, it is hard to see how Minnesota benefits by maintaining a partnership with a company that has demonstrated values that run in contrast of those modeled by the Lynx and by the WNBA.

Schnatter’s resignation is a starting point — it is not a solution.

So, this promo from the Lynx organization advertising Papa John’s pies? Premature, but also adorned lightly with some cluelessness as well.

About last night ...

Wednesday was a brunch-time basketball affair, complete with an upset, a crushed dream and Lynx being Lynx.

Next up in the WNBA ...

On Thursday, the Wings take on the Sparks at Staples Center in LA in WNBA matinee action.

And on the schedule for tomorrow? Four monster FRIDAY THE 13TH matchups!

Stay tuned for previews.

WNBA All-Star voting ends today!

Need help making these tough decisions?

Here are some points to consider:

Speak now — by Thursday July 12 at 11:59 p.m. — or forever hold your peace.


Scorching the status quo

A former college athlete committed suicide after being charged with six felonies related to sexual abuse of a nine-year-old child. Although it is great that Daniel Popper with The New York Daily News thought to include at the end of the article a link to a suicide prevention hotline, it is unfortunate that similar information was not provided for victims of sexual violence.

Those who have survived the types of crimes this athlete was charged with committing often deal with triggers for the rest of their lives. Whether it happened five years ago or yesterday, the content in that story could trigger someone who has survived similar horrors and disrupt their lives. Because survivors of sexual violence also attempt or complete suicide at higher rates than the general population, it is important that resources are readily available for them too.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence and in need of help, call the RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673), or visit them online at

In other news ...

  • WNBA All-Star Layshia Clarendon joined forces with other athletes in an open letter, published by Athlete Ally, to resounding denounce the IAAF’s discriminatory polices aimed squarely at track athlete Caster Semenya. The letter is a call to action for the IAAF to rescind those practices and stop trying to police women’s bodies.
  • Jemele Hill sounded off again about the NFL’s fondness for criminals and apparent disdain for peaceful protesters, namely Colin Kaepernick. “It wasn’t some crime (Kaepernick) did to somebody, it wasn’t hurting another person,” Hill said. “It was using his right as an American citizen to call out some of the ills and atrocities in this country.” Sure, Kaepernick will get his due in the history books, as Hill points out, but that’s not enough. Kaepernick must win the court battle and secure monetary rewards grand enough to start a top-down fallout.
  • Danielle Scott and Angelica Suffren successfully grabbed the torch passed to them by Violet Palmer, who was the first woman to referee an NBA game. Suffren and Scott became the first black women to referee an NBA game together. Congrats to these two for sending shivers down the spines of women-hating men.
  • Even for mothers with vast financial resources, rearing children while working isn’t easy for anyone. If it’s a juggling act for famous women with money, like Serena Williams, it is an impossible situation for someone working multiple jobs or minimum wage. These are not natural laws or inevitable truths, but outdated policies that those in power are fighting tooth and nail to avoid changing.

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