Tags: johnson | kenney | philadelphia

Starbucks CEO Brews Wrong Response to Race Controversy

Starbucks CEO Brews Wrong Response to Race Controversy

By Wednesday, 18 April 2018 12:46 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Fire him now.

After a highly-publicized debacle at a Philadelphia Starbucks, in which two people were arrested for trespassing, it’s clear that there is only one way to rectify the situation. The Starbucks’ employee who gave the brand a black eye needs to go.

It's time to fire CEO Kevin Johnson.

He shouldn’t be fired because the incident occurred, but because he showed cowardice by abdicating his responsibility of being a leader. He threw the store manager under the bus, used inflammatory rhetoric, invoked race and discrimination when it wasn’t warranted, and profusely apologized — all before facts were known.

And now he’s closing 8,000 stores on May 29 for "racial bias" training because of an incident that may well have had no racial bias at all.

Let’s stop shedding tears in our coffee about what we "think" happened, and instead take a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine (aka the truth) go down.

Consider: Once again, we have willfully allowed social media to rule the day. A situation exploded beyond reason, rising to a level of importance that it simply didn't deserve, all because a social media video went viral .A post, by the way, offering virtually no context.

It's yet another example of bullying by the "facts be d****d" crowd, who love subjugating the truth (though only when convenient) while seething with anger in their protest du jour.

In a rational world, you’d think it would grow old — constantly firing from the hip, leveling accusations first and asking questions later, if at all.

You would think common sense would eventually catch up with such protestors, making them understand that ridiculous demands and in-your-face demonstrations are always counter-productive.

But you would be wrong.

Let’s recap what we know. Two men, who happened to be black, had been sitting in a Starbucks for some time and hadn’t ordering anything. One asked for the code to unlock the bathroom. The store manager denied that request, and asked them to leave since they were not revenue-generating patrons. The men refused, and the manager called police. The police repeatedly asked the men to leave the private establishment, but again, they refused. According to the police chief, they were also disrespectful towards officers. The men were eventually arrested, but charges were dropped after Starbucks decided not to pursue the case.

That’s it. Maybe it was a bad managerial decision, and maybe not. But why was race immediately invoked? Why was it automatically assumed that the manager’s decision was based on bigotry and discrimination? Why was the manager not given the benefit of the doubt that requesting non-paying customers to leave, and denying access to the bathroom, was a sound decision based on past experience? A decision, by the way, based on the policy at many Starbucks nationwide.

Newsflash. Not everything is racism. Not everyone who makes a decision we don’t like, and which involves a black person, is racist. To automatically jump to the conclusion that something is racist without the benefit of facts, is itself, by definition, racist.

The more race is invoked where it isn’t warranted, the more our racial divide widens. Not only does such shortsightedness set the equality movement back, but it hurts the true victims of racism. And let’s be clear: racism is not the exclusive domain of blacks or any race. No matter the color of one’s skin, racism, in all forms, is reprehensible.

Starbucks’ CEO Johnson released a statement that made him look like a fool. It read: "First, (I wanted 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." He also called the manager’s action “inappropriate” and “reprehensible.”

Hmm. Seems like a CEO of that magnitude should see that he’s putting the cart before the horse.

How can you apologize first, then investigate the pertinent facts? That’s not how it works.

Furthermore, why is he invoking racial profiling if he, by his own admission, doesn’t have the pertinent facts? Such rash decisions, undoubtedly fueled by the misplaced priority of kowtowing to a small but vocal social media community, are beneath a chief executive. Just as bad, Johnson’s actions have undoubtedly left many Starbucks employees feeling betrayed that their leader so cavalierly threw one of their own under the bus. When employees lose confidence in their leader because they feel he doesn’t "have their backs," morale takes a huge hit.

Johnson’s inability to respond to a crisis with even a modicum of objectivity makes him entirely unfit to lead such a prestigious company. For the benefit of Starbucks customers and shareholders alike, Johnson should be given his coffee to go — permanently.

Worse was Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney showing just how out-of-touch he truly is.

First, he stated that the incident exemplifies "what racial discrimination looks like in 2018." Just brilliant Mayor Kenney. Way to go! Jump to conclusions while bereft of facts, while destroying the City of Philadeplhia brand.

If there were ever a surefire way of ensuring that Amazon and every other company that had been thinking about locating here turns and runs, the Mayor of Philly going off half-cocked and calling his citizens racists would be it.

Worse, after stating that Starbucks’ apology was "not enough," Kenney invoked a paternalistic government mentality by pushing for more regulation. He has directed the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations "to examine (Starbucks’) policies and procedures, including the extent of, or need for, implicit bias training for its employees."

Fantastic! Just what prospective (and current) companies want to hear. More costly regulation based on the whims of an uninformed mayor. Makes you shudder to think about what he might impose when (and if) he ever gets his facts straight.

For sound business reasons, many Starbucks, especially those in urban areas, print the code to the bathroom on the receipt — you know, that thing which reflects a financial transaction having occurred. 

Last time we checked, private companies don’t stay afloat without people patronizing them with their wallets. It’s great to say Starbucks is a meeting place, but at some point, people hanging out there should actually buy something. Since not doing so denies valuable space to paying customers, it’s good business practice to ask people to make a purchase, or move along. Too bad the CEO forgot about that part of the job.

Would the police have been called had the situation involved poorly dressed white people? Or non-black homeless? Who knows? But undoubtedly, the answer has a high probability of being "Yes."

The bottom line? We simply don’t know whether the manager’s decision was based on racial bias. That’s why God made objective investigations. Unfortunately, it’s too late for that now, as any meaningful investigation has been trumped by impetuous decisions and wild accusations that have become the de facto "truth."

And you don’t need to read the tea leaves to know that such a precedent will prove more bitter than a Starbucks coffee.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.

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It's time to fire Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson. He demonstrated cowardice by abdicating his responsibility. He threw the store manager under the bus, used inflammatory rhetoric, invoked race and discrimination when it wasn’t warranted, before facts were known.
johnson, kenney, philadelphia
Wednesday, 18 April 2018 12:46 PM
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