Starbucks CEO Calls Arrest of Black Men 'Completely Inappropriate' and 'Reprehensible'
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is speaking out further after a video surfaced of two black men being arrested at a Philadelphia location on Thursday, leading many people to accuse the coffee giant of racial profiling.
Johnson spoke to Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts on Monday and called the incident—in which a store manager allegedly called the police because the men asked to use the restroom without purchasing anything and later refused to leave the store—”reprehensible” and “wrong.”
“For that, I personally apologize to the two gentleman who visited our store. Certainly, it’s my responsibility to understand what happened and what led to that and ensure that we fix it,” said Johnson.
When Roberts questioned whether anyone from the coffee chain had asked the store manager why she called the police, Johnson said she incorrectly followed guidelines that were in place at that particular store.
“In reviewing this case, the guidelines that they had in place indicated a certain set of scenarios in which the police were to be called. Now there are some scenarios where the police should be called—if there’s threats or disturbance those may be appropriate times—in this case none of that occurred,” he said. “It was completely inappropriate to engage the police.”
Johnson promised that Starbucks will be using this incident as an opportunity to train their employees “not only around the guidelines but training around unconscious bias.” He did not clarify whether the store manager at the Philadelphia location would be facing disciplinary action.
Johnson also said that he plans to meet with the two men, who were released after Starbucks did not want to press charges, while in town to apologize in person.
“I’d like to have a dialogue with them so that I can ensure that we have the opportunity to really understand the situation and show some compassion and empathy for the experience they went through,” he said. “Finally, as we’re working to solve this I’d like to invite them to join me in finding a constructive way in solving this issue.”
Twitter user Melissa DePino’s video of the incident went viral over the weekend, sparking #BoycottStarbucks to start trending on social media, and has since been viewed 10 million times.
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The clip shows officers wearing bike helmets handcuffing the two men in a Starbucks location in Philadelphia’s downtown district. At one point in the video, a white man can be heard explaining that he was meeting with the men and describing the arrest situation with police officers as “ridiculous.”
Police Commissioner Richard Ross said in a Facebook video that employees at the coffee store called 911 to report two men who were trespassing. Ross explained that the officers were told the two men requested to use the restroom when they came into the store but were denied because they hadn’t made a purchase — a company policy. Ross said the men refused to leave, even when police asked them to depart the premises three times, and that the officers “did absolutely nothing wrong.”
“As an African American male, I am very aware of implicit bias; we are committed to fair and unbiased policing,” Ross said. “If a business calls and they say that ‘Someone is here that I no longer wish to be in my business,’ [officers] now have a legal obligation to carry out their duties and they did just that.”
Starbucks apologized in a statement on Saturday saying, “We take these matters seriously and clearly have more work to do when it comes to how we handle incidents in our stores.”