Starbucks president and CEO Kevin Johnson appeared on “Good Morning America” Monday morning to address the controversial arrest of two black patrons in a Philadelphia store. Johnson said what happened was reprehensible and wrong.
“I personally apologize to the two gentlemen that visited our store,” he said.
There are 28,000 locations of Starbucks and different stores have varying guidelines on handling different situations, he said.
“There are some scenarios where the police should be called, if there’s threats or a disturbance. In this case, none of that occurred,” he said. “It was completely inappropriate to engage the police.”
Johnson said more training to ensure appropriate response “and around unconscious bias” is needed.
“What happened to those two gentlemen was wrong,” he said. “Starbucks was built as a company that creates a warm, welcoming environment for all customers. That didn’t happen in this case.”
GMA host Robin Roberts asked what actions are being taken, and whether employees involved will face any punishment. Johnson indicated the remedy will be more systemic, rather than an isolated response regarding only the individuals involved.
“It’s easy for me to point blame to one person in this incident. My responsibility is to look more broadly, just to ensure this never happens again,” he said. “I’ve been very focused on understanding what guidelines and what training ever let this happen. What happened was wrong, and we will fix it.”
He is in Philadelphia and repeated his desire to meet with the two men.
“I’d like to apologize to them in person. I’d like to have a dialogue with them,” Johnson said. He said he’s been in touch with the patrons’ representatives and hopes to invite them to be part of Starbucks’ institutional reforms.
The two men, who many other customers say were simply waiting on a friend, were led from the store in handcuffs although no charges were filed.
“The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything,” Melissa DePino said in a post that included her video clip of the arrest. “They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white (people) are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”
The video has racked up more than 175,000 views and sparked furious charges of racism. Atlanta actor/rapper T.I. (currently appearing in the locally filmed indie “Krystal”) is calling for a boycott of the chain.
“My point exactly!!!” he posted with a clip from “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in which Frances McDormand’s character assigns culpability to all members of unlawful groups. “This goes to the Policemen,Priests,Preachers,
Politicians, @starbucks , @hm ,and ANYONE ELSE WHO FEELS THEY CAN DISREGARD,DISRESPECT, or MISTREAT MINORITIES!!! We have THE GREATEST BUYING POWER WITH THE LEAST AMOUNT OF CONSIDERATION!!! Only one way to MAKE THEM RESPECT US!!! They hold US TO THIS STANDARD… why shouldn’t WE HOLD THEM TO IT?”
He also posted this message:
GMA airs at 7 a.m. weekdays on Channel 2, followed by Channel 2 Action News at 6 AM.