NEW YORK (AP) – Starbucks is trying to tamp down a racially charged uproar over the arrest of two black men at one of its stores in Philadelphia.
The episode highlights the risks large corporations run when they tie their brands so closely to social messaging.
Three years ago, Starbucks was widely ridiculed for trying to start a national conversation on race relations by asking its employees to write the words “Race Together” on coffee cups. The initiative, though it backfired, was in line with the company’s longstanding effort to project a progressive and inclusive image.
Now CEO Kevin Johnson is scrambling to keep the Philadelphia incident from shattering the message the company was going for: Starbucks is a corporation that stands for something beyond profit.