By Errin Haines Whack
PHILADELPHIA — Two black men arrested for sitting at a Philadelphia Starbucks without ordering anything settled with the world’s biggest coffee-shop chain Wednesday for an undisclosed sum and an offer of a free college education.
Separately, they reached a deal with the city for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from officials to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.
The men portrayed the twin settlements as an effort to make sure something positive came out of the April 12 incident, which touched off a furor around the U.S. over racial profiling.
“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,” said Donte Robinson, one of those arrested. “It’s not a right-now thing that’s good for right now, but I feel like we will see the true change over time.”
Business partners Robinson and Rashon Nelson, both 23, were led away in handcuffs and accused of trespassing last month after the manager of a Starbucks in the city’s well-to-do Rittenhouse Square neighborhood called police, saying the men refused to buy anything or leave. After spending hours in jail, they were released and no charges were filed.
The men said they were there waiting for a meeting with a third man about a potential real estate opportunity.
The incident proved a major embarrassment for Starbucks, which has long projected an image as a socially conscious company.
On Wednesday, Starbucks announced it reached a financial settlement with the men. The amount was not disclosed.
The company said they will also be given the opportunity to complete their bachelor’s degrees, their tuition fully covered, through a Starbucks partnership with Arizona State University. The online college education program was created in 2014 for Starbucks employees.
Also, the men will be given the chance to discuss their experience and share their recommendations for changes at Starbucks with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
During the uproar, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson came to Philadelphia to apologize to the men. He also announced that more than 8,000 Starbucks stores in the U.S. would close on the afternoon of May 29 so nearly 175,000 employees can get training in unconscious bias.
Under the deal with the city, the men’s arrest records will be expunged, and a program will be created to offer counseling and mentoring to entrepreneurs from Philadelphia high schools.
I am pleased to have resolved the potential claims against the city in this productive manner,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “This was an incident that evoked a lot of pain in our city and put us under a national spotlight for unwanted reasons.”
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who is black, at first defended his officers’ conduct, but days later issued a televised apology for the way the Starbucks call was handled.
Robinson and Nelson, who grew up in an economically depressed section of the city, said the settlements are a good start, aimed at transforming their community and creating the types of opportunities that did not exist when they were younger.
Nelson said he considers the Starbucks incident a case of being at “the wrong place at the right time because of the outcome that can come out of it.”
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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