Starbucks Caves to ‘Black Lives Matter’ Backlash in Spectacular Fashion

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Facing calls on social media for a boycott after a published report said Starbucks was banning employees from wearing Black Lives Matter attire, the company made a 180-degree switch Friday and said it would not only allow such gear, it would also buy it for workers.

On Wednesday, Buzzfeed reported that Black Lives Matter items were specifically banned as part of the company’s prohibition on political, religious or personal accessories or clothing.

The site reported that Starbucks had told employees in a memo that “there are agitators who misconstrue the fundamental principles of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement — and in certain circumstances, intentionally repurpose them to amplify divisiveness.”

But in the climate that has developed in the aftermath of protests linked to the death of George Floyd, and amid social media demands that Starbucks face a boycott, the company backpedaled.

“Black lives matter and Starbucks is committed to doing our part in ending systemic racism,” the company said in a Friday statement on its website.

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“Starbucks stands in solidarity with our Black partners, community and customers, and understand the desire to express themselves,” the statement went on.

In an open letter to employees, who are called “partners” in Starbucks-speak, on its website, a trio of company executives wrote: “These are alarming, uncertain times and people everywhere are hurting. You’ve told us you need a way to express yourself at work.”

The letter was signed by Roz Brewer, chief operating officer; Rossann Williams, executive vice president; and Zing Shaw, chief inclusion and diversity officer.

“We see you. We hear you. Black Lives Matter. That is a fact and will never change. This movement is a catalyst for change, and right now, it’s telling us a lot of things need to be addressed so we can make space to heal,” the letter read.

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The letter went on to explain that T-shirts that include phrases such as “No justice, no peace,” Black Lives Matter” and “EVERYONE vs. Racism” are on the way, but until they arrive, Black Lives Matter supporters can do what they please.

The statement said 250,000 of the shirts are on order.

“Designed for partners, by partners, our Starbucks Black Partner Network and allies created the t-shirt to recognize the historic significance of this time. Together, we’re saying: Black Lives Matter and it’s going to take ALL of us, working together, to affect change,” the letter said.

The letter, issued barely five months before a presidential election, noted that political activity is part of how Starbucks wants change to be manufactured.

“That means using our voice to vote in our elections, volunteering in our black communities, joining local peaceful protests, ensuring our diverse slates of job candidates translate into diverse hires, mentoring and sponsoring partners of color so they can reach their maximum potential and taking steps to build greater understanding with empathy,” the letter read.

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Many on Twitter excoriated the company.

Barista Hailey Glick of Raleigh, North Carolina, was pleased with the change, but said some types of public support should not be allowed, according to The Washington Post.

“I was very pleased with the reversal of the decision, and I think it’s the right move,” she said. “The only thing that I think makes me hesitate and probably makes the company hesitate too is how and where we draw the line.”

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