Some years ago, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz reached out to Shaquille O’Neal, four-time NBA champion and 15-time All-Star, to do a promising deal that would have made the basketball legend quite a lot of money: opening Starbucks franchises in predominantly black communities.
To Schultz’s surprise, Shaq deferred. “My agent called me up and he says, ‘Howard Schultz wants to do business with you,’” O’Neal told Graham Bensinger, host of In Depth with Graham Bensinger. “And I’m like, ‘coffee, eh.’ Because growing up, in my household, I’d never seen a black person drink coffee. So it was my thought process that black people didn’t drink coffee.”
At the time, O’Neal was confident that he was making the right decision. “I’m always a guy that, if I don’t believe in it, I can’t do it,” O’Neal said. “No amount of money can make me endorse something that I’m not 100 percent behind.” Shaq chose not to take Schultz up on his offer.
“I looked at the great Howard Schultz’s face and said, ‘Black people don’t drink coffee, sir. I don’t think it's gonna work.’ And you should have seen the look on his face.”
Years later, O’Neal admits that he might have been wise to give Starbucks a chance. “That was one of my worst business decisions,” he admitted to Bensinger. “Now, every time, on every corner in every city, every country you see a Starbucks, I’m like, ‘Awww.’”