Did Starbucks’ Howard Schultz really say, “We don’t want your business”?

on March 25 | in Blog, News, Opinion, Religion | by | with 31 Comments

In response to a question at the recent Starbucks corporation shareholders meeting, CEO Howard Schultz reiterated his and the company’s support for workplace diversity. This includes support for same-sex marriage.

As sure as night follows day a blatantly false meme began circulating on Facebook. The primary one is from Joe Miller’s Liberty Watch. His opening sentence reads:

At the Starbucks annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday, CEO Howard Schultz sent a clear message to anyone who supports traditional marriage over gay marriage: we don’t want your business.

Not to put too fine a point on it, that information is a complete fabrication.

Miller sourced his story through Examiner.com’s also deceptively entitled article, Starbucks CEO: No tolerance for traditional marriage supporters. The author, Victor Medina, opens with this:

At the Starbucks annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday, CEO Howard Schultz sent a clear message to anyone who supports traditional marriage over gay marriage: we don’t want your business.

Look familiar?

What did Howard Schultz say about traditional marriage

Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz [Image credit]

Medina’s article points to yet another article, this one from Forbes. Finally arriving at the truth, we see Schultz was never speaking to customers of Starbucks, but in response to a shareholder’s question. The article, Howard Schultz to Anti-Gay-Marriage Starbucks Shareholder: ‘You Can Sell Your Shares'” accurately reflects the context and statement.

In response to a shareholder’s question, Starbucks’ CEO responded:

If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.

This was the statement, and the only statement. Schultz never said or implied people who support traditional marriage should take their business elsewhere.

The fact is Starbucks and Schultz are, unsurprisingly, supporting of same-sex marriage. It is also a fact that you can boycott, or get your caffeine fix elsewhere as many have chosen to do. You can also oppose same-sex marriage and continue to buy coffee from Starbucks…I do.

To be fair, each of the first two articles includes the shareholder further into the story, but the erroneous early statements are more than enough to mislead the average reader.

What Christians should avoid, however, is sloppiness. Disagreement is fine. Strong disagreement is fine. But, at least, let us strive for accuracy.

C’mon, followers of Jesus. We can do better.

(Less than HD video of Howard Schultz responding to shareholder question on gay marriage.)

  • in my opinion

    I don’t frequent Starbucks. Never have, most likely, never will. I’m not sure what question Howard Schultz was answering, but he might want to rethink his answer. He can choose to have a different opinion, it’s a free country last time I checked, but in order to have no backlash from customers on the “other” side he might want to think of a less offensive reply, in my opinion.

    • jodi martin

      what about the reply was offensive?

  • WhoRU

    Having listened to the speech by Schultz, and read the three articles referenced, I disagree with the author of this article. I do not see that the statement “sent a clear message to anyone who supports traditional marriage over gay marriage: we don’t want your business.” As a misrepresentation of what Schultz said. As a supporter of traditional marriage, when i listened to Schultz and the ravenous crowd, the message I got was that they don’t care about my views and are willing to do without my business. It is an implicit message, rather than an explicit one. But I believe it is a fair characterization of the implicit message. I read the Forbes article to have a significant slant to the left, and seemed to revel in the fact that someone would be so principled about such a noble cause as to ignore the obvious impact the the proverbial bottom line.

    • Barack

      Very difficult to read it any other way, really. “Clear” message? Today it is hard to find such a thing. But, this CEO chose to make Starbucks Coffee into more than a simple coffee shop – he chose to make it a political platform for his own agenda. If you don’t support his agenda “Sell your Shares”. In other words, “I don’t care if you support me or not…In fact, we don’t even need you. So, follow my political agenda or your not welcome here”.
      Seems rather straightforwad to me.

  • Joel

    “Sloppiness” is a generous way to put it. A more accurate way of describing what Liberty Watch did is to simply say they broke the ninth commandment.

    Unfortunately, in order to perpetuate organizations like this, you have to raise lots of $$, and also unfortunate is that to continue raking in the cash, there always has to be a “moral crisis,” bound closely with a clear “enemy” that we have to fight. This is sad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.morrissette Jon Morrissette

    good catch, well said.

  • Casey

    Okay, let me stir the pot this way: Starbucks – quite apart from their commitment to diversity – is also committed to fair-trade and paying the workers who harvest their coffee a living wage. So despite their stand on this (admittedly divisive) issue, they’re doing a lot of good in the world that way. Given the social context of the OT prophets, if Jesus had to choose a place to get coffee, which would rank higher on his list of concerns: support for gay marriage or the practice of paying workers a living wage?

    • bob

      Wonderful point.

  • Valerie Sawyer

    You never state what the question was from the shareholder? DID the shareholder ask about Starbucks’ stance on same-sex marriage? You don’t do a very good job of convincing me that Liberty Watch, et al, were in error.

    • Aaron

      The shareholder asked if the company was being effected by boycotts regarding same-sex marriage. It was a business question that got two answers. One was that the CEO felt this was the right stance to embrace the diversity of 200,000 employees. The second was that Starbucks stock has done very well, but if the investor thinks he can do better then he should.

      • Mark

        Correct. His position appeared to me to be words to the effect of: This is our considered decision in favor of diversity, and we netted 38% ROI last year in spite of any boycott over the decision. If 38% isn’t good enough, you are free to look elsewhere… we made the right decision regarding diversity, and we aren’t changing it.

  • Frank

    You are technically correct in your comments above, but you miss the point. Howard Schultz made it clear that Starbucks and a large portion, if not a majority, of their employees support Gay Marriage. Most Bible believing Christians, myself included, find this means we will not support Starbucks by buying their stock, or by buying their products. I am a coffee lover and have purchased their coffee beans and espresso for the last time. I will also make sure the investments in my retirement account do not include Starbucks stock.

    • Jess

      It is your choice and your right to buy where ever you want or think best.

  • Mr. Coffee

    The fact is Starbucks and Schultz are, unsurprisingly, supporting of same-sex marriage. It is also a fact that you can boycott, or get your caffeine fix elsewhere as many have chosen to do. You can also oppose same-sex marriage and continue to buy coffee from Starbucks…I do. ————— And what message is that sending, especially when you are so quick to come to their defense.

    • martyduren

      It’s sending the message that I drink coffee, just like when I buy at Dunn Brothers, Red Bicycle, Crema, Frothy Monkey and Jumping Goat.

  • Robyn

    Nicely said Marty, I appreciate the stance and the grace with which you write your blog. Keep it up!

  • Just Saying

    Though I am not supportive of same-sex marriage, and it’s clear opposition to God’s purpose and plan for marriage according to scripture, I think that where you get your coffee fix is beyond the point. Are we called as a people to “protest” against sinners who act such as that – as sinners? I think that we, as Christians, wage war against the symptoms of sin, i.e. homosexuality, abortions, etc., but lose sight of the fact that we are to wage war against the sin nature (help others to see the light of who Christ is in their lives). Now, I’m not a huge supporter of Starbucks (too freakin’ expensive), even though my wife loves them and even worked there for about 2 years, but God can and has placed various people within the organization and those people can make a difference in their “starbucks” culture. When we are so quick to take such a harsh stand as a group of people we place ourselves and our Savior in the same light as Westboro Baptist – a bunch of people who hate those who are not like them. Let’s take time to think about how we can do a better job reaching out to those who are inclined to homosexuality, because at the end of the day it’s the same type of sin as those of us who deal with heterosexual lust towards others and commit sexual sins such as pornography, fornication, and adultery. Please don’t misconstrude my response as “pro-Starbucks” or even “pro-same-sex marriage” because I’m not, but we have historically done a terrible job of showing the love of Christ to those who we consider to be “heathens”. Let’s make a difference in the world the way Christ would – let’s love the sinners without condoning their sins.

    • Mattssister

      I agree that we should love the sinner. We also should call sin what it is and sometimes that requires “a harsh stand”. All too often we Christians just “go with the flow” or don’t ruffle feathers under the banner of being “loving”. That’s not loving. That is tolerating sin. If Starbucks had remained silent and not become politically involved in this issue, that may be one thing. But they did take a stand and to just let this go would be a grave mistake. Yes, it is sad for those employees who don’t support same-sex marriage that are having to suffer the consequences of that stand. But we, as Christians, did not create those consequences nor should we feel guilty for their plight. That was all at the hand of their employer. We should feel sad and sympathetic towards them, love them, find a way to rescue them either by offering a job or through financial support, etc. But not guilty. We do what is right because it is right, not because it is popular. We are called to be holy, blameless, a living sacrifice. Perhaps that is what our fellow Starbucks-employed Christians are having to do right now…sacrifice for the greater good. This is about more than just a coffee shop’s opinion. It’s about Kingdom living.

      • jodi martin

        Thanks for your thoughtful post. On what Scriptures are you basing the idea that we should not tolerate sin publicly? I say publicly because starbucks is not part of the church. We are given clear instructions for dealing with people inside of the church, but I do not see where this extends to society at large.

      • Just Saying

        I’m not saying at all that we should tolerate their sin, but I will say that in general, Christians (myself included) are quick to point at “bigger” sins (homosexuality, murder, etc.) but lack the responsibility to check our own lives.1 Cor. 5:9-13 says, “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to each with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” We are so quick to look at Starbucks and other companies who “take a stand” on so called moral issues but we fail as the Body of Christ to deal with the filth and sin that sit among our pews. Like I said, I am against same-sex marriage – and being a father of two little girls I fear for the future that my children will be exposed to and the ideologies that will be about. But I know that we have so utterly failed our Savior – so instead of boycotting Starbucks – go into one, buy a coffee or latte and then share the gospel with someone who may not look or act the way that you do. Need we be reminded that Jesus, because of the stance that he took to love on people was accused of being a sinner himself by those who are considered “religious leaders and zealots” of the time?

  • Mattssister

    Regardless of whether or not Schultz’ comments were taken out of context (and I’m not convinced that they were based on this article), it is abundantly clear where Starbucks stands on this issue. They are certainly entitled to their opinion but they have no business occupying our Christian university campuses (as they do for so many) while publicly promoting a message that we, as Christians, so deeply oppose. What message are we sending by letting them profit on our campuses? We are indirectly supporting their cause by doing so. I encourage any of you with ties to a Christian university to petition them to terminate their contract with Starbucks. Let them open across the street if they want (it’s still a free country) but they should not operate on Christian school property.

    • http://www.facebook.com/robotrollcall Beth Duren Lancaster

      Hate the sin, ban the sinner? We cannot be content with loving people from afar. Nothing eternal is ever achieved by banning and boycotting everyone who offends our moral sensibilities. Just last year many Christians pitched a fit about gays boycotting Chick-Fil-A and now many are boycotting Starbucks for their support of gay marriage. Christians will NOT reach people when we push them away. So sterilize your Christians colleges all you want; all you’ll do is prove yourself shallow and incapable of loving people more than you love your morals. We’re a city on a hill. Stop building walls around it.

  • Jess

    If you own a business and provide a product to customers, you have the right to sell your product to everyone, and their “marriage” is not relevant when selling a cup of coffee. It doesn’t mean you support your customer’s personal choices in life, but only that you treat every customer with the same respect and service. They come to buy a cup of coffee and you sell them a cup of coffee. It doesn’t matter what their race, religion, politics or lifestyle is — as a business owner, you’re not “supporting” gay marriage or not supporting gay marriage, you’re just selling your product equally to all. It’s generally the media that causes the problem by trying to make it something it’s not. But as a christian working in a fast food place, I as the worker, have been treated poorly also because of the way I dressed. It’s not just one way hateful treatment. It goes both ways from either side of the counter. In general, we just need to treat people respectfully.

  • jaredsbizz

    So you support “Same-Sex Marriage?”

  • Ron

    It is too easy to believe the worst, this has taught me a lesson not soon forgotten. As a believer, I shouldn’t be so quick to believe anything negative about another individual, especially if it came from the internet. Having said that Howard Schultz has the right to his own beliefs whether I agree with him or not. The last I looked, this is still America.

  • MGM46

    The share holder that Schultz was speaking to may have played a part in his answer. This person was an anti gay marriage stock holder and while he did not say the things some of the news reported, it is very clear what his feelings are.

  • Barack

    This is too bad. All I wanted was a coffee and they have to make the coffee business a political platform. Now, people who do support and believe in our traditonal and cultural view of marriage are really told: “you are not welcome here!”
    From now on I guess Starbucks will be seen in my eyes as “the gay bar without alcohol”.
    I’m not welcome; therefore, no more support given to this company by me. The end of an era!

  • http://twitter.com/thrushjz Dave Thrush

    In the Obama economy…I can’t afford Starbucks anymore, and I get better coffee at McD’s for half the price…

  • Barb

    The ‘accuracy’ report on the Star Bucks CEO was lacking…what lead to the CEO’s remark of the shop-elsewhere shares? I think you might find the innuendos are the same…and just a reminder…you are the steward of all God has given you, and if you are spending God’s money in a business that you know openly supports gay lifestyle, then, shame on you!

    • martyduren

      Barb-

      Thx for stopping by and for your comment.

      Here is a 2010 list of companies that “support equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.” Unless you intend to avoid “spending God’s money in a business that you know openly supports gay lifestyle” then I’m not moved by your chastisement.

      http://www.salaryfor.com/blog/companies-offering-domestic-partner-benefits.html

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