Papa Johns | Pope Consulting

Here’s the Thing: We Can’t Fix Things if We are Denying that they Exist

This article is Patricia Pope’s response to the recent resignation of Papa John’s founder, John Schnatter, and resignation of Uber’s Chief People Officer, Liane Hornsey.


We see it in the news almost daily now – evidence of how biases (conscious or unconscious) are affecting people and organizations. It’s the police being called when young Black children or teenagers are trying to earn some money during the summer by selling water, cutting grass or delivering newspapers. It’s a Hispanic woman at a park who rented out a space to celebrate her birthday being harassed because of the t-shirt she’s wearing, and a Parks officer does nothing but stand there, despite her pleas for help. The officer resigned. The Park apologized and refunded her money.

Organizations Affected by Biases

It’s the Chief People Officer of Uber resigning after an investigation of how she handled complaints of racial discrimination. It’s the Chairman of the Board of Papa Johns resigning after using the “n-word” on a conference call with a marketing agency that was attempting to help him improve his and the company’s image.

When asked how he could distance himself from racist groups online (related to his criticism of Black NFL players taking the knee that caused a notable loss in sales and ultimately his resignation as CEO), he responded with more racist words. He blamed Black NFL players for his declining sales.

He also resigned his seat on a university board. The Board Chair then said after speaking with the former Papa John’s CEO and Chairman of the Board that “his comments, while inappropriate, do not reflect his personal beliefs or values.”

There’s a Pattern Here

What’s the pattern in all of these events that keep happening? There’s an apology, often money is refunded. Often someone makes a public statement vouching for the character of the offending person.  

When the police are called when a young Black child is doing a ‘good thing,’ it stays with them for the rest of their life. What will be more memorable for that Hispanic woman? The incident that occurred before her birthday party – or the party itself?

Here’s the thing: we can’t fix things if we are denying that they exist. Biases are real and real in their consequences.

Unconscious Bias Training

At Pope Consulting, we have been specializing in unconscious bias training, diversity and inclusion training, and culture change initiatives for over 40 years. We have worked with over 250 of the Fortune 500 companies and have been leading the national conversation on the topics of inclusion, diversity, and unconscious bias. If your organization would like to learn more about what kind of training, consulting, or coaching solutions may be right for you, please contact us today. We’d love to get the conversation going.    


Patricia C. Pope is CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Pope & Associates. She is a recognized subject matter expert with over four decades of knowledge and experience in diversity, inclusion, and culture change. She serves as the lead consultant on many of our client engagements and has primary responsibility for Research & Development. Her passion is creating new assessments/measurement tools, new learning content and training solutions, and innovative ways to build inclusive cultures.