Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has spoken out in response to an incident that left customers in handcuffs at a shop in Philadelphia on April 14. In an interview with Good Morning America, the 57-year-old executive said he would order store managers to partake in training on how to spot “unconscious bias” after two black men were arrested at the chain because they didn’t make a purchase but refused to leave.
In a viral video uploaded to Twitter, the men are handcuffed and escorted off the premises by police, although they were only sitting at a table waiting for a friend. Ultimately, both men were accused of trespassing and taken into custody around 4:30 p.m. They were released around 2 a.m. the following morning after the district attorney rejected the charges.
“I’ll say the circumstances surrounding the incident and the outcome at our store on Thursday were reprehensible,” Johnson told ABC News. “They were wrong, and for that, I personally apologize to the gentlemen that visited our store.”
Johnson also expressed his wish to connect with the men face-to-face. Shortly after his interview with Good Morning America, a Starbucks spokesperson confirmed to CNN that the men who were arrested have agreed to meet the executive. An exact date and time has yet to be confirmed, but the company is hoping the encounter will occur during Johnson's time in Philadelphia, where he's staying to address the controversy.
In the days following the arrest, dozens of demonstrators have protested the store at 18th and Spruce Street. Picketers were chanting, “A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap, Starbucks coffee is anti-black,” according to The Daily Beast. Some are even calling for a boycott.
“We don’t want this Starbucks to make any money today. That’s our goal,” protest organizer Abdul-Aliy Muhammad told news station WPVI, a local ABC affiliate. Multiple videos posted to Twitter by newscaster Jeannette Reyes also show a flood of customers demanding that management fire the employee who called police on the day of the arrest.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the manager in question has left the company as it continues its investigation into the situation.
"Clearly, there's an opportunity for us to provide clarity and in addition to that I'd say there's training, more training that we're going to do with our store managers, not only around the guidelines but training around unconscious bias," the CEO added.
This story was first published on April 16 at 2 p.m. and was updated throughout with developments at 4 p.m.