On June 10, Starbucks came under fire for reportedly banning its employees from wearing Black Lives Matter attire. The coffee chain changed its position following social media backlash, and announced its workers could wear any clothing or accessories supporting the cause. That didn't stop some customers from boycotting the business anyway, especially after discovering Starbucks would be releasing their own BLM merchandise — a move that has been met with controversy. Despite collaborating with the brand in the past, Ariana Grande unfollowed Starbucks and even seemingly threw a bit of shade at it in the process.
On June 10, Buzzfeed reported Starbucks sent a memo to all its workers that outlined the employee dress code. The policy was not directed at BLM attire specifically, but it affected workers who wanted to wear the slogan on their uniforms. "Partners are not permitted to wear buttons or pins that advocate a political, religious or personal view," the letter read.
The company said it knows workers may want to display the slogan to show support for the cause. While Starbucks "firmly believe[s] that Black Lives matter...," it does not want its employees wearing the phrase on any attire due to conflict that could arise from "agitators who misconstrue the fundamental principles of the Black Lives Matter movement."
The statement read:
We are unfortunately living in a time where phrases like Black Lives Matter have been misconstrued and politicized to create more divisiveness. While I know our partners' intentions are in the right place, we do not want anyone to be in a position where they do not feel prepared or comfortable handling questions or confrontation from agitators. This is exactly the type of situation our dress code was intended for, and why it applies universally to slogans representing any external movements, agendas or organizations - political religious or otherwise.
Just two days after the memo spread online, and a whole lot of backlash over their position, Starbucks released another statement encouraging its employees to wear the slogan on their attire if they wish to. On Instagram, the coffee chain also revealed it's now sending over 250,000 Black Lives Matter T-shirts to its workers in North America.
"Until these arrive," the reversal memo read in part, "we've heard you want to show your support, so just be you. Wear your BLM pin or t-shirt. We are so proud of your passionate support of our common humanity."
The move has received mixed responses, with many customers feeling like Starbucks just changed their position to avoid backlash, and should be spending their time and money on something more productive than designing t-shirts (the workers just wanted to wear their BLM pins, after all).
Grande, who worked with Starbucks in 2019 to create her "Cloud Macchiato" signature drink, has now reportedly unfollowed the company on Instagram. Fans see it as a huge move since she's been an avid Starbucks drinker for years. They also noticed she's instead opted for another go-to coffee brand: a local, Black-owned business called Nimbus Coffee LA.
"mmmmmmmm @nimbus_coffee_la ⚡," Grande captioned an IG Story showing off her new recommendation.
While Grande has reportedly unfollowed Starbucks, the brand still follows the singer on social media.