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Thursday
May032018

Starbucks CEO to mentor two black men arrested at Philadelphia shop

ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) -- The CEO of Starbucks will mentor the two black men who were arrested at the coffee chain's location in downtown Philadelphia last month, after the men reached a settlement with the company and the city.

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson will now "have a seat at the table," they said, alongside their attorney, Stewart Cohen, in an exclusive interview Thursday on ABC News' Good Morning America.

"The CEO of Starbucks is going to personally mentor these two young men going forward. After they met, he was so impressed and they were so impressed with one another that they’re going to have a continuing relationship," Cohen told GMA co-anchor Robin Roberts. "So not only do they have a seat at the table and not only do we have this settlement, but we have the beginning of a relationship."

The 23-year-old entrepreneurs and longtime friends said they went to the Starbucks in Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square neighborhood to meet with a potential business partner on April 12, when a barista asked them whether they wanted to order anything. They declined and told her they were just there for a quick meeting, they said.

Nelson said he immediately asked to use the restroom when they walked in but was informed it was for paying customers only. So the pair sat at a table and waited for the person with whom they were scheduled to meet. Then they saw police officers enter the store and speak with the manager, they said.

They didn't think anything of it until the officers approached their table and told them they needed to leave, they said.

They said they calmly told the officers they were there for a business meeting, and Robinson said he even called the person for whom they were waiting. But the officers repeatedly insisted that they leave, they said.

The officers ultimately handcuffed Nelson and Robinson, and escorted them out of the Starbucks and into a squad car before taking them to the police station. Both men were later freed and the charges they were facing -- trespassing and disturbance -- were dropped that night.

An onlooker captured the incident on video, which has been viewed more than 10 million times online and prompted protests outside the coffee giant's location on Spruce Street.

Nelson and Robinson subsequently met in person with Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, their attorney said.

As part of their agreement with the city, the two men have decided not to pursue a lawsuit against Philadelphia and released the city from all claims for a payment of $1 each, the Philadelphia Mayor's Office told ABC News. The dollar amount that Starbucks settled for was not disclosed.

Additionally, the city will fund a $200,000 grant to a nonprofit for a pilot program for public high school students who aspire to be entrepreneurs, according to the mayor's office. Robinson and Nelson will not receive any money from that grant.

"The fact that we have a seat at the table to work on, you know, reforms and be included in racial bias training," Nelson said in Thursday's interview, "hopefully other companies will take what Starbucks is putting into perspective and it'll follow."

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