Business

2 Black Men Settle With Starbucks and Philadelphia Over Arrest

Posted May 2, 2018 7:26 p.m. EDT
Updated May 2, 2018 7:29 p.m. EDT

The two black men who were arrested while waiting in a Starbucks last month have reached an agreement with Philadelphia: The city will spend $200,000 to help young entrepreneurs.

And the men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, both 23, will each be given $1.

That is what they asked for when they approached city officials and agreed not to file a lawsuit against Philadelphia or its employees after they were arrested in an episode that ignited widespread criticism of Starbucks and the city’s police.

“I am pleased to have resolved the potential claims against the City in this productive manner,” Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia said in a statement. “This was an incident that evoked a lot of pain in our City, pain that would’ve resurfaced over and over again in protracted litigation.”

Also Wednesday, Starbucks said it had reached an agreement with Nelson and Robinson that “includes a confidential financial settlement.”

On April 12, Nelson and Robinson were sitting in a Starbucks in Philadelphia’s Center City neighborhood. They were waiting for another man, Andrew Yaffe, who is white, for a business meeting.

When they asked to use the restroom before they had purchased anything, an employee said no. They were eventually asked to leave, and when they did not, an employee called the police.

What happened next was captured on videos that have been viewed millions of times on social media. Just as Yaffe was arriving for the meeting, police officers were putting handcuffs on the men and leading them out of the cafe.

“What did they get called for?” Yaffe asked in the video, referring to the police. “Because there are two black guys sitting here meeting me?”

Nelson and Robinson were arrested on suspicion of trespassing, but Starbucks did not press charges and the two were later released.

The arrests prompted a #BoycottStarbucks campaign and protests at the store in Center City. Starbucks apologized on social media, and Kevin R. Johnson, the company’s chief executive, released a statement in which he called the arrests a “reprehensible outcome.” The employee who called the police was fired. Starbucks also announced that it would close its U.S. stores May 29 to give anti-bias training to 175,000 employees.

A spokesman for Philadelphia said the $200,000 pledge announced Wednesday would be spent on a pilot program for high school students who want to become entrepreneurs, and city officials will work with Robinson and Nelson to develop a grant committee.

Nelson and Robinson said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” a week after the arrest that they had been waiting at the Starbucks for a business meeting involving a real estate project they had been working on for months.

“I want to make sure that this situation doesn’t happen again,” Robinson said of the arrest. “What I want is for young men to not be traumatized by this, and instead motivated, inspired.”

In its statement Wednesday, Starbucks said its agreement with Nelson and Robinson “would allow both sides to move forward and continue to talk and explore means of preventing similar occurrences at any Starbucks location.”

It added that the two men had been offered the opportunity to complete their undergraduate degrees through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a program that covers tuition for eligible U.S. employees for an online degree program offered by Arizona State University.

Efforts to reach Nelson and Robinson on Wednesday were unsuccessful.