Bowing to pressure from African-American activists, Starbucks excluded the Anti-Defamation League from an upcoming daylong anti-bias training session.
The ADL, whose mission is to fight anti-Semitism, will play an advisory role in the company's long-term efforts to combat discrimination, Jaime Riley, a Starbucks spokeswoman, told POLITICO Monday. But the group won't help develop the curriculum for Starbucks' May 29 mandatory anti-bias training, as originally planned.
The anti-bias training was prompted by the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks who asked to use the bathroom without making a purchase. A video of the arrest went viral, prompting a public backlash and the trending hashtag #BoycottStarbucks.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson quickly apologized, calling the situation “reprehensible.” On April 17, the the company announced it would close more than 8,000 U.S. locations to conduct mandatory training to prevent racial bias, using a curriculum to be developed by leaders from a number of anti-bias groups, including Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL.
“When Starbucks asked for assistance, we agreed to help,” ADL spokesman Todd Gutnick told POLITICO. “As to whether Starbucks may or may not now want to utilize our expertise, you should ask them."
Liel Leibovitz, writing today in Tablet, a "a daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture," was less measured in his criticism. "Shame on Starbucks for giving in to bigotry," he said.
But Starbucks' Riley denied the company cut the organization loose because of political pressure, saying in an email, "We are architecting a multi-phase approach to addressing bias."
Almost immediately after the April 17 announcement, activists attacked Starbucks over the ADL's involvement, citing the ADL's support for Israel and its arms-length relationship to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The ADL is CONSTANTLY attacking black and brown people,” Women’s March organizer Tamika Mallory posted on Twitter. “This is a sign that they are tone deaf and not committed to addressing the concerns of black folk.” Mallory came under fire earlier this year after attending a Feb. 25 speech by Louis Farrakhan in which the Nation of Islam leader said “the Jews have control over" the FBI.
Cat Brooks, the co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, told ABC News that she agreed with Mallory, saying "you can't be a piece of an anti-bias training when you openly support a racist, oppressive and brutal colonization of Palestine."
The Washington chapter of Black Lives Matter, meanwhile, tweeted that the ADL was "ultra pro-cop," and cited a 2016 letter in which Greenblatt said "ADL has not endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement" because "a small minority of [its] leaders ... supported anti-Israel — and at times anti-Semitic — positions." Greenblatt's letter didn't identify the leaders in question.
Starbucks' exclusion of the ADL from its May 29 training session became apparent on April 24 when a press release about the event failed to mention Greenblatt in connection to it. Instead, it said the company would "consult with" the ADL in connection with longer-term efforts.
"We have a lot of amazing advisers, and we also realized this can't be a one-time thing," Starbucks's Riley told POLITICO. "The training on [May] 29 can't be the beginning and end."