Starbucks under fire after two black men arrested
Men were asked to leave after not making a purchase.
The company’s CEO apologized, calling the incident at a Philadelphia store “reprehensible.”
Starbucks, which has touted its progressive values and its “social impact” agenda, faces fierce criticism and calls for a boycott after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia store, sparking accusations of racial profiling over what the company’s chief executive called a “reprehensible” incident.
In a statement, CEO Kevin Johnson offered “our deepest apologies” to the two men on Saturday, who were taken out of the store in handcuffs by at least six officers. A store manager had asked the two men to leave after they asked to use the bathroom but had not made any purchases, police said. The men declined to leave and said they were waiting for a friend, their attorney later said. The manager then called 911 for assistance, the company said.
The confrontation was captured on a video viewed more than 8 million times on social media, fueling the backlash, which drew responses from Philadelphia’s mayor, the city’s police commissioner and now the chief executive of the biggest coffee house chain in the world.
Johnson vowed an investigation and a review of its customer relations protocols, and he said he wanted to meet the two men for a face-to-face apology.
“Creati ng an environment that is both safe and welcoming for everyone is paramount for every store. Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome — the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong,” Johnson said. “Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.”
The two men were taken to a police station, where they were fingerprinted and photographed, their attorney, Lauren Wimmer, said on Saturday. Her clients, who declined to be iden- tified, were released eight hours later because of lack of evidence of a crime, she said, adding that the Star- bucks manager was white.
The incident is a dramatic turn for a company that has positioned itself as a progressive corporate leader and touts “diversity and inclu- sion” — efforts that have also drawn its share of crit- icism. Last year the company vowed to hire 10,000 refugees, drawing calls for a boycott, mostly from conserva- tives who said they should focus on native-born Amer- icans and military veterans (though Starbucks started an initiative in 2013 to hire 10,000 veterans and mili- tary spouses).
Wimmer said the man whom the two men were there to meet, Andrew Yaffe, runs a real estate development firm and said he wanted to meet the men to discuss business investment opportunities. In the video, he arrives to tell police that the two men were waiting for him.
“Why would they be asked to leave?” Yaffe says. “Does anybody else think this is ridiculous?” he asks peo- ple nearby. “It’s absolute discrimination.”
Melissa DePino, who recorded the viral video of the incident, told Philadelphia magazine that the men did not escalate the situation. “These guys never raised their voices. They never did anything remotely aggressive,” she said.
Cellphone videos, includ- ing DePino’s, show the men sitting and calmly speaking with officers.
Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, highlighted the company’s role in the incident in a statement on Saturday. He noted that the omnipres- ent coffee shops are known for being community hubs of people who do not nec- essarily buy anything, suggesting that the manager’s actions may have been moti- vated by race.
Protesters gather outside a Starbucks in Philadelphia on Sunday where two black men were arrested Thursday after Starbucks employees called police to say the men were trespassing. The arrest prompted accusations of racism on social media.