Joe Henderson: Boycott Starbucks? Take a deep breath, folks

Published April 19, 2018

A couple of weeks ago I received a call from someone doing job-related background checks on a friend of mine. He wanted to meet face-to-face, so we did what many other people do in that situation.

We picked a Starbucks that was near to both of us.

I've had lots of meetings at Starbucks. I usually order a grande mocha frappuccino. When the server asks if I want whipped cream, I say yes.

Don't judge me.

I like Starbucks. I will continue to like Starbucks, even though it should go without saying — but I'll say it anyway — that the coffee chain's Philadelphia story was a profile in racism that should be, and has been, universally condemned.

You know the deal by now.

Two black men were taken out of the Center City Philadelphia Starbucks in handcuffs because, well, they were black. They were waiting to meet someone there, and that person apparently was late.

They hadn't ordered anything.

RELATED COVERAGE: Men arrested at Starbucks say they feared for their lives

The store manager called the cops on the bogus premise these men were trespassing. White customers sitting nearby who either hadn't ordered anything or were nursing lattes while using the store wi-fi weren't hassled.

Cell-phone video of the incident quickly became a viral sensation. This was a public relations nightmare playing out on nightly news and social media.

Next thing you know, there were widespread calls, fueled by the rage machine known as Twitter, to boycott Starbucks stores throughout the land because of the actions of one dumb employee.

Take a deep breath folks.

RELATED COVERAGE: Starbucks to close all 8,000 stores for racial bias training on May 29

While everyone certainly has the right to spend their money however they choose, to self-righteously encourage people to stay away from a Starbucks in Valrico because someone at a Starbucks in Philadelphia took leave of their senses seems like a huge over-reaction to me.

If a boycott like that really took off, it would only hurt employees and stores that were in most cases hundreds or thousands of miles away from Philadelphia.

What did any of those people do other than report to work and try to soothe people's caffeine Jones?

I'm not saying the story isn't important. Race relations in this country have deteriorated to levels I haven't seen since the late 1960s, and this is just the latest example.

Starbucks deserved to be shamed over what happened.

But the company CEO apologized. He ordered mandatory racial-bias education for the estimated 238,000 company employees, not just in Philadelphia. They will close the stores nationwide on May 29 for that training.

That will draw more attention to this problem, and that's good. We need to talk about these things.

I think that would have happened anyway without a boycott.

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But that's how we roll today.

I did a basic online search about boycotts.

I found one site that listed 64 companies we are supposed to boycott for various sins.

Breitbart "News" made the list.

Full disclosure: I avoid that site naturally as a matter of taste without calling it a boycott.

A lot of companies made the boycott list because their boss endorsed Donald Trump, or their company carries Trump products, or they advertise on Fox News.

Well, it is a free country, but here's a better idea.

If you want change, register to vote and encourage your friends to do the same, then actually cast a ballot.

In the meantime, it wouldn't hurt to be more selective about boycotts. They can work.

Ask Sea World about how boycotts and pressure from PETA convinced the company to end its orca shows and breeding program.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and noted kneeler Colin Kaepernick can tell you how it feels to have 32 National Football League teams boycott him.

But Starbucks?

Sorry. Not me.

A gross mistake was made at one store. The company is doing its best to fix the problem.

Just don't let it happen again.