The white Starbucks manager who called 911 on two African American men last week is no longer with the company, with Starbucks’s executive chairman saying the manager likely acted on her own “unconscious bias” when she decided to involve the police.
Howard Schultz told Gayle King of “CBS This Morning” that he spent time with the manager and that she “recognizes that perhaps that call should not have been made.” Schultz said that when the manager called the police, she probably thought they would come to her location in Center City in Philadelphia and talk to the men about why they were there.
The men were waiting for a third man to arrive for a business meeting when the manager called 911. One or both of the men had asked to use the restroom but were told no because they had not bought anything.
“I think you have to say in looking at the tape that she demonstrated her own level of unconscious bias,” Schultz told King. “And in looking at the tape, you ask yourself whether or not that in fact was racial profiling.”
Starbucks chief executive Kevin Johnson appeared on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings With Maria” on Wednesday and talked about meeting with the men who were arrested.
“I had the opportunity to apologize to those two gentlemen for what happened to them,” he said. “They didn’t deserve that.”
Johnson also met with Philadelphia’s mayor, the police commissioner and other community leaders. He described “very constructive discussions” as part of the process to ensure that “this doesn’t happen again.”
Johnson did not directly answer a question from anchor Cheryl Casone about whether Starbucks would consider changing its “policy that customers have to buy something if they come into a store.” He said the company is looking “at all aspects of this,” from training to company policy.
When asked what the company’s policy is about making purchases, a Starbucks spokesperson said: “In this particular store, the guidelines were that partners must ask unpaying customers to leave the store, and police were to be called if they refused.”
“In this situation,” the spokesperson said, “the police should never have been called. And we know we have to review the practices and guidelines to help ensure it never happens again.”
Johnson, Schultz and other Starbucks executives met with about 40 local clergy and lay leaders on Wednesday. One attendee, Hugh Taft-Morales, leader of the Philadelphia Ethical Society of the American Ethical Union, a humanist organization, said he was struck by how the executives “didn’t grandstand” or try to dictate the conversation. Taft-Morales said he felt the executives truly listened, and noted that they stopped short of swiftly promising a laundry list of new policies, saying that “frankly, that would have been suspicious if they did.”
Yet when asked whether he felt hopeful that the meeting would bring a solution to lasting change, Taft-Morales said “yes and no.”
“The conversation is going to continue,” Taft-Morales said. “Hope is a difficult word. What made me feel better is I think I saw a level of listening that I think is pretty unique. And they are upping the ante on themselves. They are saying things publicly and transparently about how this was a reprehensible situation and how the responsibility is on them, not the manager.”
On Tuesday, Starbucks announced that it would close 8,000 U.S. stores for an afternoon next month for racial-bias training for 175,000 employees. That announcement came after days of protests at the Philadelphia Starbucks and a personal apology from Johnson.
Also on Tuesday, Philadelphia police released the 911 call, as well as dispatches and other transmissions that provide a timeline of events.
At 4:37 p.m., a female employee at the Starbucks called the police to report “two gentlemen in my cafe that are refusing to make a purchase or leave.” Officers arrived at the Starbucks 4:41, according to the tape. At 4:44, officers requested backup and a supervisor for “a group of males causing a disturbance” inside the Starbucks. Dispatch sent additional backup at 4:45.
By 5 p.m., the officers were en route to their headquarters with two arrested men.
“Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities,” Johnson said in a statement.
Johnson rushed from Seattle to Philadelphia as the backlash erupted. The chief executive has publicly apologized for what he called “reprehensible” circumstances that led to the arrest of the two men at a store in Philadelphia’s Center City district Thursday.
“I will fix this,” he said in a video message.