The 2 Black Men Starbucks Called The Cops On Settled For $1 — And Got This Promise From The City
The Associated Press reports that the two black men arrested at Starbucks have reached a settlement with the city of Philadelphia. Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, who were booted from one of the city's Starbucks locations while waiting for a friend, will receive a symbolic $1 payment each, as well as a promise from the city of Philadelphia to invest $200,000 in a program for young entrepreneurs.
"We thought long and hard about it and we feel like this is the best way to see that change that we want to see," Robinson told the Associated Press. "It's not a right-now thing that's good for right now, but I feel like we will see the true change over time."
Robinson and Nelson came to a Starbucks in the upscale Rittenhouse Square neighborhood on April 12th to meet with a friend about a potential real estate opportunity, but after staying in the coffee shop for several minutes without ordering anything, an employee called the police. Several officers showed up and arrested the two men, despite several bystanders insisting that Robinson and Nelson did nothing wrong. They were hauled out of the building in handcuffs and spent several hours in jail before being released with no charges filed.
Video of the incident quickly went viral and sparked widespread outrage, including the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks. The company issued a formal apology to Robinson and Nelson, and Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz said that he was "ashamed" of his employees' behavior, which he called "reprehensible at every single level." The company also announced that on May 29th, 8,000 Starbucks locations will close so that employees can undergo an implicit racial bias training; Starbucks later clarified that the May 29th training will be merely the first step in a "multi-phase" effort.
A spokesperson for the city of Philadelphia told the Washington Post that, per its settlement with Robinson and Nelson, the city will allocate $200,000 from its Finance Department budget to fund a grant program for local high schoolers who want to be entrepreneurs. In addition, the two men's arrest record will be expunged.
"I am pleased to have resolved the potential claims against the city in this productive manner," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said. "This was an incident that evoked a lot of pain in our city, pain that would’ve resurfaced over and over again in protracted litigation, which presents significant legal risks and high financial and emotional costs for everyone involved." He added that Robinson and Nelson proposed the grant program in an attempt "to make something positive come of this."
In addition to their agreement with the city, Robinson and Nelson also reached a financial settlement with Starbucks over their arrest. The exact terms and amount of that settlement haven't been revealed, but the company said that it will allow the two men to receive their bachelor's degrees from Arizona State University, with which Starbucks has a partnership, with their tuitions fully paid for.
“I want to thank Donte and Rashon for their willingness to reconcile,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement. “I welcome the opportunity to begin a relationship with them to share learnings and experiences. And Starbucks will continue to take actions that stem from this incident to repair and reaffirm our values and vision for the kind of company we want to be.”
Some criticized Starbucks' response to the incident, however, and argued that mandatory company training is an insufficient step to tackling racial biases.
“Organizations tend to rush to the training option as a way to quickly window-dress issues, especially around gender or racial bias," Holly Hutchins, an associate professor of human resource development at the University of Houston’s College of Technology, told the Guardian. “People are feeling like they’re going to be strong-armed into changing their beliefs and perspectives about something, and it can often trigger even more stereotypes and backlash."