Three weeks after two African-American men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks, the company has reached twin settlements for an undisclosed sum and an offer of free college tuition through its partnership with Arizona State University. Starbucks also committed to maintaining an open dialogue with both men moving forward.
The resolution follows mediation between the two men, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, and Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, who traveled to Philadelphia to apologize to the pair in person.
“I want to thank Donte and Rashon for their willingness to reconcile. I welcome the opportunity to begin a relationship with them to share learnings and experiences,” Johnson said in a statement. “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.”
In addition to the settlement, Starbucks will close all 8,000 company-owned stores and corporate offices May 29 for a half-day training specifically designed to prevent discrimination and address unconscious bias. The only other time the company has closed its system in this fashion was exactly a decade ago when Howard Schultz returned to the helm with the goal of righting the then-wayward chain.
It’s still unclear whether a combination of the settlement and special training will help repair the damage. Since the incident on April 12, Starbucks has faced mounting criticism with customers both protesting and boycotting; #BoycottStarbucks even trended on Twitter in the U.S., Canada, and U.K.
Amid the national dialogue around unconscious bias and discrimination, the arrests—partially captured on video—flies in the face of Starbucks’ ethos. As the global coffee leader, the company prides itself on progressive values and community inclusiveness. The events of April 12 painted a very different picture.
Robinson and Nelson were sitting at a Starbucks waiting to meet another person; the pair had not ordered anything. By the time the third person arrived, Robinson and Nelson were being arrested under charges of trespassing. The store manager Holly Hylton had called the police, reporting that the men had refused to purchase anything or leave the shop. Another guest, Melissa DePino, recorded a 45-second clip of the arrests and tweeted it at Starbucks.
For its part, the city of Philadelphia reached a deal with Robinson and Nelson wherein the two men both received a symbolic $1 and a promise to found a $200,000 public high school program for aspiring entrepreneurs.