UPDATE (6/12/2020): After an internal decision by Starbucks that they would not allow staff to participate in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, that decision has been flipped. Starbucks will now allow employees to wear Black Lives Matter T-shirts.
The original story, which details the timeline of Starbucks flip flop between supporting BLM and not allowing staff to wear pins, clothing, or other things in support of the movement, is told below.
Starbucks recently sent out an internal memo that BuzzFeed News shared. The memo was sent to staff regarding wearing pins, accessories, and clothing to support the Black Lives Matter movements in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
This is an act of cowardice. https://t.co/6lf0gADVcs— Joelle Emerson (@Joelle Emerson)1591903161.0
According to the statement, pins, accessories, and clothing can only be worn if they are direct partners with Starbucks. Since Black Lives Matter is not a partner of Starbucks, staff is not allowed to wear anything associated with the movement because staff "... are not permitted to wear buttons or pins that advocate a political, religious, or personal issue."
This is seemingly in direct contrast to a previously published letter from Starbucks' CEO about the movement, protests, and deaths.
In that letter, titled "Courageous conversations in the wake of George Floyd's murder," Kevin Johnson, president and CEO of Starbucks, said,
"... it is, in part, our promise to one another as partners to live our mission and values daily. We are a family. We act with empathy and compassion. And we honor our differences, always. We uplift each other. Because that is what true Starbucks partners do."
While denying staff the right to wear these pins does not necessarily make the company anti-BLM or racist, it is a questionable call for a company that widely advocates for the LGBTQ+ community and sells pride-themed merchandise. It is also questionable for a company that, in 2018, sent thousands of its stores across the country through racial bias training.
This move makes Starbucks and Johnson look out of touch with their staff's needs through not only this situation but the past few years.
Making a written statement is incredibly important during a time like this, but the biggest impact on any company's image comes from its actions internally and externally — and this memo says a lot about Starbucks' priorities.