Shaq Will Soon Bid Farewell To Papa Johns

The former NBA player will finish out his term on Papa Johns' board of directors.

The beautiful and somehow still surprising five-year relationship between a former NBA star and a top fast food pizza chain will soon come to an end. In May, Shaquille O'Neal will finish his term on the board of directors of Papa Johns, and although he'll remain involved with the brand in other ways, the athlete turned businessman has no plans to seek re-election.

Papa Johns' announcement notes that Shaq is departing the board due to his other business commitments. The hall-of-famer has had a seat on the board since 2019, when Papa Johns was struggling through some very serious PR issues relating to its founder's racist comments and eventual ousting. Since then, Shaq's impact on the success and overall image of the brand has been pivotal, to say the least.

The first item released during Shaq's tenure that also carried his name was the Shaq-a-Roni Pizza, essentially just an extra large pizza with a ridiculous amount of pepperoni on top. Though seemingly a simple offering, with Shaq's name attached to it the menu item raised $3 million within its first two months for The Papa Johns Foundation for Building Community, with $1 of each purchase going directly to the organization. (The Shaq-a-Roni was a limited-time offering that is no longer on the menu.)

Despite being a very busy man, Shaq will still remain a spokesperson and "brand ambassador" for Papa Johns, per the announcement.

"While my other business commitments make it challenging to extend my board service for another term, I am looking forward to continuing my partnership with Papa Johns, a brand I've loved since my days playing basketball at LSU," said O'Neal in the statement. "I am grateful for the valuable experience I gained on the Papa Johns Board and am proud to have played a role in making the company culture into what it is today, including being recognized as a best employer for diversity three years in a row."

Those other business commitments referenced in the press release likely include Shaq's other food venture, Big Chicken. Shaq is actually a major investor and spokesperson for the chicken sandwich chain, which has a number of locations nationwide. Big Chicken also serves popcorn chicken, chicken tenders, sliders, and salads. Although the brand missed what this author considers a golden opportunity to name itself "The Chicken Shaq," the chain's social media handles are indeed @bigchickenshaq.

Nation's Restaurant News reported last year that Shaq has played a major role in helping grow out Big Chicken's breakfast menu and drive-thru concepts. O'Neal has been a proprietor of the chain since 2018, not long before he took Papa Johns into his business portfolio.

This doesn't sound like a true breakup between Papa Johns and the NBA star. It's more of a "see you later."