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Arrest of Black Men at Philadelphia Starbucks Was ‘Reprehensible,’ C.E.O. Says Starbucks Employee Who Called Police on Black Men No Longer Works There, Company Says
(about 3 hours later)
As protests continued at a Philadelphia Starbucks on Monday, Kevin R. Johnson, the chief executive of the company, said it was “reprehensible” that two black men were ejected from the store last week and said he wanted to meet with them personally and apologize. An employee who called the police to the downtown Philadelphia Starbucks where two black men were arrested last week is no longer working there, Starbucks confirmed on Monday, as the company’s chief executive apologized for the “reprehensible” episode.
Mr. Johnson, who spoke on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” also said that the company was reviewing guidelines, which can differ among the chain’s 28,000 stores worldwide, and was investing in training, including in unconscious bias. “We can confirm that she is no longer at that store,” a spokeswoman said, declining to name the employee or provide further details.
What happened to the men was “wrong, and for that I personally apologize to the two men that visited our store,” he said. “It’s my responsibility to understand what happened and what led to that, and ensure that we fix it.” As protests continued over the episode, the chief executive, Kevin R. Johnson, said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he wanted to meet with the men personally and apologize.
The company instructs employees to call the police in certain situations, such as those involving “threats or disturbance.” He also said that the company was reviewing its guidelines, which can differ among the chain’s 28,000 stores worldwide, and that it was investing in training, including in unconscious bias.
“In this case, none of that occurred,” Mr. Johnson said. “It was completely inappropriate to engage the police.” What happened was “wrong, and for that I personally apologize to the two men that visited our store,” he said. “It’s my responsibility to understand what happened and what led to that, and ensure that we fix it.”
Mr. Johnson made the remarks as protesters returned to the store, a Starbucks in downtown Philadelphia. Footage posted on social media showed protesters holding placards and chanting slogans against the company and the police action.
Last Thursday, the two men asked to use the restroom in the coffee shop but an employee refused the request because they had not bought anything, officials said. They sat down, and they were eventually asked to leave. When they declined, an employee called the police.Last Thursday, the two men asked to use the restroom in the coffee shop but an employee refused the request because they had not bought anything, officials said. They sat down, and they were eventually asked to leave. When they declined, an employee called the police.
Some of what happened next was recorded in a video that has been viewed nearly 10 million times on Twitter and was described by Mr. Johnson as “very hard to watch.” Police officers surrounded the men and escorted one of them out of the Starbucks in handcuffs. The other soon followed. Some of what happened next was recorded in a video that has been viewed over 10 million times on Twitter and that was described by Mr. Johnson as “very hard to watch.” Police officers surrounded the men and escorted one of them out of the Starbucks in handcuffs. The other soon followed.
The men, who have not been identified, were arrested on suspicion of trespassing. But Starbucks did not want to press charges and the men were later released, Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. of the Philadelphia Police Department said in a recorded statement on Saturday.The men, who have not been identified, were arrested on suspicion of trespassing. But Starbucks did not want to press charges and the men were later released, Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. of the Philadelphia Police Department said in a recorded statement on Saturday.
The prosecutor’s office in Philadelphia also reviewed the case and declined to charge the men because of “a lack of evidence that a crime was committed,” Benjamin Waxman, a spokesman for the office, has said. The prosecutor’s office in Philadelphia has reviewed the case and declined to charge the men because of “a lack of evidence that a crime was committed,” Benjamin Waxman, a spokesman for the office, said.
A longer video of the episode shows the police talking with the men for at least four minutes before a white man, Andrew Yaffe, joins them and informs the police that the people they were about to take into custody were “not trespassing” and were meeting him there.A longer video of the episode shows the police talking with the men for at least four minutes before a white man, Andrew Yaffe, joins them and informs the police that the people they were about to take into custody were “not trespassing” and were meeting him there.
Mr. Johnson, on Monday, did not directly reply to a question about whether the employee who contacted the police would face disciplinary action, adding that it was his responsibility as chief executive to look “broadly” at what had happened. The company instructs employees to call the police in certain situations, such as those involving “threats or disturbance,” Mr. Johnson said on “Good Morning America.”
The company apologized on Saturday afternoon. Later that day, while the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks was trending on Twitter, Mr. Johnson released a statement in which he called the situation a “reprehensible outcome.” He also said at that time that he hoped to meet the men in person and to offer a “face-to-face apology.” “In this case, none of that occurred,” he said. “It was completely inappropriate to engage the police.”
He also pledged to investigate, and to “make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.” Mr. Johnson made the remarks as demonstrators filled the store, located on 18th and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia’s Center City, on Monday morning. Footage posted on social media showed protesters holding placards and chanting slogans against the company and the police action.
“Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling,” he said. “Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome the basis for the call to the Philadelphia Police Department was wrong. Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.” The Philadelphia incident goes to the heart of how the company has modeled itself, with campaigns that address racial and social issues and promote its image as a community meeting place for customers to linger.
In 2015, the company encouraged its baristas to write the words Race Together on coffee cups as a way of promoting discussion and unity. Many were skeptical of the effort, pointing out that Starbucks’s own leadership was predominantly white.
Brian Yarbrough, an equity analyst with Edward Jones, said the company might feel less of an impact on sales because Mr. Johnson took direct steps to address the episode, including expressing publicly that it was committed to investigating and conducting training. But, he added, “they need to make swift decisions.”