Starbucks Arrest: A Case of Racial Profiling

April 3, 2018


Two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks after the manager called 911. The men had scheduled a business meeting there. One of them asked to use the bathroom but was told they were for paying customers only. The man left it at that and went back to the table with his partner. A few minutes later, police arrived and took them away in handcuffs. There is not a single witness that said the men were misbehaving in any way. This appears to be a case of racial profiling.

The representing attorney, Stewart Cohen, approached Starbucks and suggested mediation with a retired federal judge in Philadelphia. The mediation process is confidential.

Results of Case

A settlement was reached between Robinson and Nelson and the City of Philadelphia for $1 each. They also partnered with the City of Philadelphia and a non-profit to fund a $200,000 grant to help future entrepreneurs from Philadelphia High Schools. Neither will benefit personally from this plan, as the grant will not be extended to them. The creation of the fund is symbolic, to bridge the racial gap in Philadelphia. Robinson said, “We thought long and hard about it and we feel like this is the best way to see that change that we want to see.”

Robinson and Nelson also received an undisclosed amount from Starbucks and were extended an offer to complete their education through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, publicly apologized and announced that on May 29, his stores would close so every employee could receive racial bias training.

Additional Local Media Coverage

Philly Voice: It took two minutes for Philly Starbucks manager to call cops on two black men

The Times-Tribune: Good Result in Philadelphia

Philly Voice: Philly police commish apologizes to men arrested at Starbucks

Philly Voice: Letter to Ross: We challenge your assertions that police did nothing wrong

Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Philadelphia police commissioner says he chose the wrong words after Starbucks incident

Additional National Media Coverage

New York Times: Men Arrested at Starbucks Hope to Ensure ‘This Situation Doesn’t Happen Again’

Washington Post: Black men arrested at Starbucks tell their story for the first time

CBS News: Black men arrested at Philadelphia Starbucks say they feared for their lives

CBS News: Protests at Starbucks As CEO Does Damage Control

USA Today: Starbucks victims speak out, express hope their arrests inspire change

CNN Money: Men say they were arrested within minutes after arriving at Philadelphia Starbucks 

Essence: Black Men Arrested At Starbucks Were Only There 2 Minutes Before 911 Call Was Made Philadelphia’s top cop apologizes to black men arrested at Starbucks

New York Daily News: Philadelphia police commissioner says he ‘failed miserably’ in Starbucks incident, apologizes

South Bend Tribune: Our Opinion:A Positive End to A Negative Story

Greensboro News & Record: A Graceful Settlement to the Graceless Incident at Starbucks

Bustle: The Philadelphia Men Arrested At Starbucks Spoke Out For The First Time & The Video Is A Must-See

US News: Black Men Arrested at Starbucks Hope Scandal Sparks Change

The Root: When You Know That You Did Nothing Wrong, How Do You Really React? Men arrested at Philly Starbucks speak out: “This is something that has been going on for years”

Yahoo Finance: One of the men arrested at a Philly Starbucks: This is not a ‘black people thing, it’s a people thing’

Yahoo News: Black Men at Center of Starbucks Arrest Controversy Tell Their Story: ‘There Was No Reasoning’

Dayton Daily News: Philadelphia Starbucks arrest: Men say manager called 911 minutes after they arrived

Chicago Tribune: Commentary: Where can we be black? And safe?