After footage of two black men being arrested (seemingly for no reason) in a Philadelphia Starbucks went viral on Saturday, the rest of the weekend saw Starbucks issue a series of apologies. Although CEO Kevin Johnson stated his intent to apologize “face-to-face” to the two men, and the manager who called the police has left the company in what Starbucks is calling a “mutual decision,” ongoing protests are occurring outside the store, and trouble continues to brew on social media.
As is often the case with controversial incidents surrounding corporate entities, calls for a boycott (with a #BoycottStarbucks hashtag firing up) have grown louder over the past few days. Pop culture figures are joining the cause with T.I. declaring his belief that “we should reserve our right to stop spending our money in places that don’t respect us equally.” This pronouncement arrived not long before civil rights activist Shaun King posted apparently new footage of a black man being denied a Starbucks bathroom code while a while man received the courtesy, yet as the video indicates, neither man had purchased anything.
Likewise, comic and CNN host Kamau Bell is just one of many who are calling for people to support the boycott by redirecting their coffee money to Black-owned coffee shops.
The hashtag is seeing overwhelming support by most who use it.
In addition, some folks are remembering a not-really-controversial grumbling about a Starbucks holiday cup in 2016, which set the stage for a boycott that never really took flight.
And yet others are treating the situation with humor, or pointing out that the police officers who responded may also be to blame, or stressing that one manager’s decision shouldn’t represent an entire company.
One can question the efficacy of boycotts, and indeed, it’s difficult to measure their success as a whole. For example, last year’s advertiser boycott of Fox News Host Bill O’Reilly (after reports of millions of settlement dollars paid to his sexual harassment accusers) was followed by his termination. Whereas a recent advertiser boycott of Laura Ingraham appears to have ended differently, after her offense — although tasteless, given that she mocked a teen shooting survivor — was less egregious than O’Reilly’s.
The difference between the above two examples is much easier to read than the immediate effects of calls for people to stop frequenting Starbucks, and only time will tell if the company can make things right before their bottom line sees measurable effects.