Starbucks, Philadelphia settle with 2 black men in ‘trespassing’ case

The city’s $1 per person payment is symbolic; another $200,000 will go toward entrepreneurial grants. The coffee chain’s undisclosed financial offer melds with ongoing race-sensitivity efforts.

Money can be a powerful symbol—even when it’s a small figure.

Many are remarking on the $1 apiece settlement that two African-American men received from the City of Philadelphia after they were arrested while waiting for a friend at Starbucks. Beyond that, though, the city is setting up a $200,000 fund for grants benefitting young entrepreneurs of color.

While much media attention is going to the city’s actions, Starbucks has quietly agreed to pay the Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson an undisclosed sum. Starbucks also hopes to partner with the men to address cultural issues around race in the community as it tries to repair its damaged reputation.

Starbucks wrote in a press release:

After constructive conversations, Donte Robinson, Rashon Nelson and Kevin Johnson, ceo of Starbucks Coffee Company (NASDAQ:SBUX) reached an agreement earlier this week.

The agreement between the parties stemming from the events in Philadelphia on April 12 will include a financial settlement as well as continued listening and dialogue between the parties and specific action and opportunity.

Starbucks sought to show how it would work with Nelson and Robinson to improve experiences for black customers in its stores and in the community.

It continued:

“I want to thank Donte and Rashon for their willingness to reconcile,” said Kevin Johnson, ceo Starbucks. “I welcome the opportunity to begin a relationship with them to share learnings and experiences. And 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.”

The company has also pledged to help Robinson and Nelson with their business endeavors.

The Washington Post reported:

In an April 18 interview with “CBS This Morning,” Starbucks executive chairman, Howard Schultz, said he hoped to work with Nelson and Robinson and use Starbucks’s resources to advise and support their business ventures.

“We will provide them with a foundation of learning and provide them with an opportunity to be part of our company either directly or indirectly as a result of this situation,” Schultz told co-host Gayle King.

As for the accord with the city, The Washington Post reported:

“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, which presents significant legal risks and high financial and emotional costs for everyone involved,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement.

Kenney said Nelson and Robinson approached the city as partners “to make something positive come of this.”

Funds for the $200,000 program will come from the city’s Finance Department budget, Dunn said. The city, Nelson and Robinson will work together on developing a committee to award the grants.

On Twitter, some thought Nelson and Robinson should have gotten more than a symbolic single dollar from the city.

Others saw the move as a positive response to an ugly incident:

Most media attention has gone to the symbolic agreement with the city and not Starbucks’ undisclosed settlement amount. There has even been some confusion, with some readers conflating the two settlements.

How would you advise Starbucks to talk about its settlement?

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