Starbucks CEO stops short of calling arrests of two black men in a Philadelphia shop racial profiling

Key Points
  • Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson says it was "completely inappropriate" for employees to call the police in this case.
  • The arrests of the two black men on Thursday were caught on video that went viral after it was posted online.
  • Johnson refuses to say what, if any, repercussions the Starbucks employees who called 911 might face.
Starbucks CEO apologizes for arrest of two black men in Pennsylvania
Starbucks CEO apologizes for arrest of two black men in Pennsylvania

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson told ABC News on Monday that it was "completely inappropriate" for Philadelphia Starbucks employees to have called the police on two black men who asked to use the restroom.

Johnson was asked by "Good Morning America" if he thought Thursday's incident which resulted in the men's arrest was a case of "racial profiling." He did not directly answer that question, but he did say: "Starbucks was built as a company that creates a warm, welcoming environment for all customers. That didn't happen here in this case."

A statement signed by Johnson on Saturday night read, in part: "First, to once again express our deepest apologies to the two men who were arrested with a goal of doing whatever we can to make things right. Second, to let you know of our plans to investigate the pertinent facts and make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again. And third, to reassure you that Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling."

The woman who posted the video of the arrests that went viral said staff at the Starbucks called police because the two men had not ordered anything while waiting for a friend.

@Starbucks The police were called because these men hadn't ordered anything. 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 ppl are wondering why it's never happened to us when we do the same thing.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross on Saturday defended the actions of his officers, saying they had no choice but to act after Starbucks employees told them the pair were trespassing.

Johnson on Monday refused to say what, if any, repercussions the Starbucks employees who called 911 might face.

"Clearly, there's an opportunity for us to provide clarity and in addition to that I'd say there's training, more training that we're going to do with our store managers, not only around the guidelines but training around unconscious bias," he said.

Johnson said he's made contact with representatives of the two men, who were later released with no charges, asking for a face-to-face meeting, so he can "apologize in person" and enlist them to talk about a "constructive solution."

About two dozen protesters on Monday morning took over the Philadelphia Starbucks where Thursday's arrests took place.

Johnson has been in the CEO role for little more than one year, getting the promotion after the company's longtime chief executive, Howard Schultz, stepped down to focus his efforts on trying to turn the Starbucks high-end Reserve Roastery-branded coffee bars into destination restaurants.

— The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.