Starbucks 'Race Together' Cup Messages Go Away After Criticism

CEO Says Chain 'Didn't Expect Universal Praise'

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Starbucks employees will no longer write "Race Together" on customers' cups, ending the first stage of the company's controversial effort to spur a discussion on U.S. race relations.

The coffee chain is now moving ahead with the next phase of the program, CEO Howard Schultz said in an open letter to workers on Sunday. That includes employee forums, dialogue with police and community leaders, and a commitment to expanding stores to urban communities, he said. The "Race Together" cup messages, which were criticized as ham-fisted on social media, ended on Sunday -- as was originally planned, Mr. Schultz said.

"While there has been criticism of the initiative -- and I know this hasn't been easy for any of you -- let me assure you that we didn't expect universal praise," he said.

Starbucks announced the Race Together initiative March 16 to "stimulate conversation, compassion and action around race in America." Racial tensions flared in rallies and riots last year after police killed two unarmed black men -- Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York -- with no charges brought against the officers.

The Seattle-based company's leadership team visited almost 2,000 employees in St. Louis, Oakland, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York over the past three months to discuss racial issues.

After Starbucks asked baristas to write "Race Together" on customers' cups, the initiative generated mockery and criticism on social media. The firestorm even prompted Corey duBrowa, a communications executive at the company, to delete his Twitter account. His account was back up by Sunday.

-- Bloomberg News --

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