Two Men Arrested in Starbucks Receive Symbolic $1 Settlement -- and $200K For Philadelphia High School Entrepreneur Program

/// A couple dozen protesters gathered Sunday afternoon outside the Philadelphia Starbucks where two black men were arrested in an incident that prompted social media outrage and an apology from the coffee chain's CEO. Several demonstrators passed around a bullhorn and gave speeches expressing their outrage over the Thursday arrest. Police say Starbucks employees had called 911 to say the men were trespassing. The men were released "because of lack of evidence" that a crime had been committed. (AP Photo/Ron Todt)

The two black men who were arrested in Starbucks several weeks ago have settled with the city of Philadelphia — a symbolic $1 each and the creation of a $200,000 fund to be used on a pilot program for Philadelphia public high school students.  The program will be for young aspiring entrepreneurs and will focus on teaching the students to develop the skills necessary to become business owners.

In exchange, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, both 23, agreed not to file any lawsuits against the city of Philadelphia and its employees.

Both Nelson and Robinson will develop and serve on the fund’s grant committee to establish and award the grants.

The funds will come out of the budget of Philadelphia’s Finance Department.

According to the mayor’s office, neither of the men will receive any payment from the grant funds.

Starbucks also announced that it had reached a financial settlement with the two men, though the amount was not disclosed, and Starbucks has also offered them “the opportunity to complete their undergraduate degrees through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a first of a kind partnership with Arizona State University otherwise available to Starbucks partners to earn their bachelor’s degree with full tuition coverage.”

Mayor Jim Kenney released a statement, saying “I am pleased to have resolved the potential claims against the city in this productive manner. This was an incident that evoked a lot of pain in our city, pain that would’ve resurfaced over and over again in protracted litigation, which presents significant legal risks and high financial and emotional costs for everyone else.”

The mayor also revealed it was Nelson and Robinson who approached the city with the idea of the pilot program, “in an attempt to make something positive come of this.”

Robinson told the Associated 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.”

During an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” last month, Robinson showed a desire even then to use the situation to help others. “I want to make sure that this situation doesn’t happen again,” he said regarding the situation. “What I want is for young men to not be traumatized by this, and instead motivated, inspired.”

This seems to be the best possible way that the situation could have been resolved. The men have the opportunity to continue their education if they want, which could help them with their business plans — as the reason they were even at Starbucks was for a scheduled business meeting — and the youth of Philadelphia receive encouragement and useful knowledge for their futures.

What a remarkable attitude and response by both of these young men, who have handled this entire situation with dignity, grace, and forgiveness and who chose to use the situation to benefit others.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.