Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz spoke out after the coffee giant announced it would close 8,000 stores in May for racial bias training following the controversial arrest of two black men at one of its Philadelphia stores.
“I’m embarrassed, ashamed. I think what occurred was reprehensible at every single level. I think I take it very personally as everyone in our company does and we’re committed to making it right,” Schultz said during an interview with CBS This Morning on Wednesday.
“The announcement we made yesterday about closing our stores, 8,000 stores closed, to do significant training with our people is just the beginning of what we will do to transform the way we do business and educate our people on unconscious bias,” Schultz added.
News of the incident, which occurred last Thursday when a store manager called police on the two men who she claimed were loitering, sparked outrage and protests. Protestors additionally demonstrated in and outside of the Philadelphia store, briefly shutting it down. CEO Kevin Johnson issued a public apology and met with the two men, who were detained but ultimately not charged.
Schultz said the massive company-wide Starbucks training will be worth the cost of shutting down operations for half a day.
“It will cost millions of dollars, but I’ve always viewed this and things like this as not an expense, but an investment in our people and our company,” he said. “And we’re better than this.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the reason that [police] were called was because they were African American,” Schultz added. “That’s not who Starbucks is.”
Schultz confirmed the store manager who called 911 on the men has since left the company.