When two black men were arrested and forcibly removed from a Philadelphia Starbucks coffee shop for the offense of not ordering coffee, a single decision by a single manager thrust the entire brand into a national PR crisis.

Social media outrage turned into protests, planned boycotts and a blazing wildfire of negative media coverage for the brand, which is already under siege by growing competition and shifting cultural trends. Regardless of where anyone, personally, may stand on the issue of the business’ right to deny service or ask the men to leave, the brand was taking a beating that was greatly outsized by the effort it would have taken to simply allow the men to stay… especially since most of the patrons in the restaurant were asking for exactly that resolution. So, Starbucks had to get out in front of the issue, and the brand had to do it fast.

Part of that unilateral mea culpa was to “make it right” with the men who were ousted for doing what millions have done in the past: hung out in Starbucks waiting for a friend to arrive before ordering. Now, the Associated Press is reporting the men have “settled” with the company for an “undisclosed sum” as well as “an offer of free college tuition.”

This announcement came after the news that the men had also settled with the city of Philadelphia for a “symbolic payment” of $1 each, as well as the promise of a $200,000 grant program being set up in their names to benefit young entrepreneurs. The men at the center of the incident said the purpose of the two settlements is to turn something negative into something positive.

Donte Robinson, one of the two men, told the press: “We thought long and hard about it, and we feel like this is the best way to see that change that we want to see… It’s not a right-now thing that’s good for right now, but I feel like we will see the true change over time.”

The change Robinson and his business partner, Rashon Nelson, seem to want is a shift in how young black men are perceived in society, especially in a business establishment. The men are business partners who say they had been waiting on a third party to discuss a real estate opportunity when the Starbuck manager insisted they order something or leave.

Regardless of this outcome, the optics of Starbucks coming down on opposite side of a social justice issue is something the company will have to continue to work to erase. Part of that is planned company-wide training later this month. But it will likely take more than that to calm down the anger over this incident.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5WPR

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.

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