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Starbucks launches Black Lives Matter merchandise after social media backlash

Baristas will now be allowed to wear t-shirts that bear a graphic design that shows their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The fight against racism rages on in the USA. Many protestors and brands took to social media to express their solidarity with the movement. When it comes to brands though, social media users are quick to understand patterns of inconsistent behaviour and aren't afraid to demand for accountability.

The latest brand to feel the heat from social media users is Starbucks. The coffee chain tweeted a statement to show their support for the movement when the protests were gaining momentum in different parts of the USA.

In response to the statement, Twitter users were quick to point out that Starbucks was not allowing their own baristas to wear any merchandise that supports the movement.

The Washington Post reported that Hailey Glick, a Starbucks barista in Raleigh, N.C., said she learned of the initial denial of BLM attire through an unofficial employee Facebook group. She admitted that initially, she thought the company was simply reinforcing its official dress code – which expressly prohibits personal accessories that advocate for a political or religious beliefs. The realisation dawned on her when her colleagues pointed out that the coffee chain celebrates Pride Month with rainbow themed shirts, cups and other merchandise – which they were allowed to wear while working their shifts. “If we can stand up for LGBTQ rights, why can’t we stand up for black lives and people of color?” she asked.

The coffee chain was quick to backtrack. Shortly after, Starbucks announced a line of merchandise - namely shirts with the Black Lives Matter theme

On its website, it announced that it would be partnering with the Starbucks Black Partner Network and Black Starbucks leaders to 250,000 shirts available to our company-operated partners in U.S. and Canada to affirm support at this critical time in our history.

This seems to be Starbucks' way of finding middle ground - supporting the movement and addressing the social media criticism that they've faced. The article mentions that the effort allows partners to continue to follow store policies that are designed to maintain a safe and welcoming sense of community. Until these shirts arrive in stores, partners will be able to wear their BLM pin or t-shirt in support of their community and humanity.