Men arrested at Starbucks share what manager said before police arrived


The two men at the center of the Starbucks controversy, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, spoke with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America to share their side of the story.

Nelson and Robinson told Robin Roberts they were at Starbucks for a real estate meeting that they had been working on for months. She asked them to describe what happened when they arrived at Starbucks and asked to use the bathroom.

Rashon Nelson: “Immediately as soon as I walked in. She stated that it was for paying customers only and I just left it at that…”

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After taking a seat to wait for their colleague to arrive for their meeting the manager approached them.

Donte Robinson: “We’re at the table. We sit down we’re just talking amongst each other, she comes from around the register, walks up to us, asks if she could help us with anything… could we start with some drinks, water. We had bottles of water with us so we’re fine. We’re waiting for a meeting we’ll be out really quick, type thing. And that was it.”

Robin Roberts noted that they arrived at 4:35 for a 4:45 business meeting, and a 911 call was placed at 4:37, two minutes after they arrived.

They went on to describe what happened when the police arrived.

Donte Robinson: “It can’t be for us. Initially, as soon as they approached us, they said we have to leave. There was no question of, ‘was there a problem here with you guys and a manager, you know, what happened?’ At the time, we’re not read any rights. Nothing. Just double locked. Handcuffed behind our backs and escorted out and put into a squad car.”

Roberts asked them what they were thinking at the time as they were being arrested.

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Donte Robinson: “I was just trying to process the situation to myself at the time because I’m thinking about my family. My community. So in that moment, I’m trying to process what’s going on because it didn’t really hit me what was going on, that it was real until I’m being double locked with my hands behind my back.”

Robinson said he told officers they were there for a meeting.

Donte Robinson: “It’s a real estate meeting. We’ve been working on this for months.”

When Roberts asked what they wanted people to know given Starbucks has a policy and they violated that policy when they were repeatedly asked to leave and didn’t.

Donte Robinson: “I understand that rules are rules but what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. And that’s in any situation, whether there’s race involved or anything.” 

Their lawyer said they have approached Starbucks to enter mediation with a retired federal judge in Philadelphia to address the matter and they have agreed. He said the terms are confidential.

Going forward

It has now been announced that, “Starbucks says it will close more than 8,000 company-owned stores in the United States on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores.”

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has called for “unconscious bias” training for Starbucks store managers, and says he is deeply sorry for the  “reprehensible” circumstances that led to the arrest of the two men at a store in Philadelphia.

According to, the manager who has been identified in media reports at Holly Hylton, has left the company in what a company spokeswoman called a “mutual” decision.

Johnson met with the two men to apologize personally.