NEW YORK (JTA) — Starbucks denied that it demoted the Anti-Defamation League from a lead role in its anti-bias training, saying it continues to view the Jewish group as a valuable partner in future training.
Reggie Borges, a spokesman for the coffee giant, spoke to JTA on Wednesday following speculation that left-wing criticism of the ADL’s role in the anti-bias training had led Starbucks to reduce its role.
“I can’t emphasize enough that they were not demoted,” Borges said. “The ADL remains a key component of our plans. Any implication they’ve been demoted just isn’t true in any way, shape or form.”
The anti-bias training is Starbucks’ response to the controversy surrounding the April 12 arrest of two black men at one of its Philadelphia franchises. On April 17, Starbucks announced that it was closing all 8,000 of its company-owned retail outlets in the U.S. on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct anti-racism training for its 175,000 employees.
In its initial announcement, Starbucks named the leaders of five civil rights groups who were to be involved in planning and monitoring the company’s efforts, including ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
On April 25, Starbucks issued a second statement expanding on its plans, omitting Greenblatt’s name.
In between those two announcements, Tamika Mallory, a Women’s March co-founder who the ADL had slammed “”) for publicly endorsing Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, tweeted that the ADL “is constantly attacking black and brown people.” Others on the left said the ADL was not an appropriate choice for anti-bias work because it sponsors training programs in Israel for American law enforcement.
Borges said any change in ADL’s role was not a result of such criticism, but instead represented the natural evolution of the company’s plans to counter bias.
Greenblatt seemed to accept Starbucks’ decision, tweeting April 25: “Honored to be assisting @Starbucks in implementing #antibias education for all 175k US partners. This effort needs to be about creating lasting change. Starbucks is committed for long haul and ADL will be there every step of the way.”
Asked to comment Wednesday, ADL spokesman Todd Gutnick said, “When Starbucks asked for assistance, we agreed to help. As to whether Starbucks may or may not now want to utilize our expertise, you should ask them.”