April 16, 2018 / 4:20 PM / 8 months ago

Starbucks CEO wants to meet black men arrested in U.S. cafe, apologize

LOS ANGELES, April 16 (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp Chief Executive Kevin Johnson hopes to meet with the two black men arrested at one of its Philadelphia cafes last week to apologize for the incident, which has sparked accusations of racial profiling at the coffee chain.

The men, who had not made a purchase, were handcuffed and arrested for trespassing on Thursday after a store manager called 911 and reported them. Witnesses said the men were calmly sitting in the cafe and in a widely viewed video, some patrons asked police whether they were targeted because they are black.

Police released the men, who were not charged.

"The circumstances surrounding the incident and the outcome in our store on Thursday were reprehensible ... they were wrong," Johnson told ABC's Good Morning America on Monday, amid protests at the Philadelphia store and calls for a boycott on social media.

The incident, roughly a year after Johnson took the helm at Starbucks, comes at a time when the company is grappling with flat traffic and lackluster sales growth at its more than 14,000 US cafes. Johnson, who was interviewed from Philadelphia, said it was "completely inappropriate to engage the police." He said a disciplinary review was underway and added that Starbucks would conduct training to prevent unconscious bias.

In a "mutual" decision, the manager who reported the men to police has left the company, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Representatives from Starbucks did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lawyers for the two men could not be immediately reached.

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles Editing by Susan Thomas

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