Starbucks changes policy to allow Black Lives Matter T-shirts

'We’ve heard you want to show your support, so just be you'

Starbucks is adjusting its dress code to allow Black Lives Matter T-shirts and pins after complaints that it prohibited employees from wearing them amid nationwide racial justice protests.

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The company, which has publicly backed the movement following the death of George Floyd, is partnering with the Starbucks Black Partner Network and Black Starbucks leaders to make 250,000 shirts that affirm its support available to company-operated partners in North America, officials told FOX Business on Friday.

Wearing them will be voluntary, and until they arrive, workers will be able to wear their own Black Lives Matter items.

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"We’ve heard you want to show your support, so just be you," the company said in a note to employees. "We are so proud of your passionate support of our common humanity."

The shirts were designed by Starbucks employees in conjunction with the Black Partner Network, the company said.

"It’s going to take ALL of us, working together, to effect change," Starbucks said in its memo. "That means using our voice to vote in our elections, volunteering in our black communities, joining local peaceful protests, ensuring our diverse slates of job candidates translate into diverse hires, mentoring and sponsoring partners of color so they can reach their maximum potential and taking steps to build greater understanding with empathy. "

(Starbucks)

Unsurprisingly, Twitter took notice, with some praising the company for their efforts.

"Thank you. I knew you would do the right thing," one user wrote. "I get the need to protect the environment. But not at the risk of creating a safe space for the enemy of our progress. I love you. Well done."

The about-face comes just after the company notified employees who had asked to wear Black Lives Matter apparel that it would stick by a longstanding policy barring clothing with political or personal slogans.

Workers wanted to wear the shirts to show solidarity with nationwide protests over Floyd's death, the latest in a series involving a black person in police custody.

But Starbucks’ first chief inclusion and diversity officer, Zing Shaw, noted that there are "agitators who misconstrue the fundamental principles of the Black Lives Movement -- and in circumstances intentionally repurpose them to amplify divisiveness."

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Shaw's comments and a memo outlining the dress-code and the reasons for it fueled backlash from activists who immediately accused the company of forsaking its commitments to help promote racial justice and foster difficult but necessary conversations on the matter.

On June 1, just days after Floyd's death, Starbucks tweeted: "We will confront racism to create a more inclusive and just world. We stand in solidarity with our Black partners, customers and communities. We will not be bystanders."

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Underscoring its previous statement, the company then tweeted: "The path forward requires open and honest conversations about racial injustices … It's going to take each of us to drive necessary change."

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The coffeehouse chain's charitable arm, The Starbucks Foundation, separately announced plans to award $1 million in neighborhood grants to support racial equality.

The company also held a virtual conversation at the end of May with more than 2,000 Starbucks partners and their families about the deaths of Floyd; Ahmaud Arbery, who was running through a neighborhood in Georgia when he was shot; and Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician who was gunned down in a late-night police raid of her Kentucky home.

Its quick reversal on the apparel dispute, however, didn't win over some users on Twitter who said it was "a bit too late."

"Shirts don't mean action. You said what you said in your memo, now we will take our money elsewhere," one user wrote.

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