Starbucks faces backlash over a symbol in a Native American Heritage Month sign

Starbucks faces backlash over a symbol in a Native American Heritage Month sign
  • Starbucks workers are calling out a poster intended to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

  • The sign displays a symbol similar to one in the animated show "Avatar: The Last Airbender."

  • The uproar comes five months after turmoil over the company's handling of Pride Month decorations.

Starbucks is under fire for another initiative meant to highlight and celebrate diversity. The latest issue centers around a poster Starbucks created to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

One symbol appears twice on the poster and is strikingly similar to one used in the animated kids' show "Avatar: The Last Airbender." Starbucks locations around the country have displayed the posters in break rooms, back offices, and in some cases, in view of customers, three employees told Insider.

The uproar comes about five months after tensions erupted over restrictions some stores had placed on Pride Month decor. The reaction shows how difficult it can for companies be to navigate diversity initiatives, particularly while battling a growing union movement.

Some employees have called out Starbucks on social media for seemingly using a fictional tribal symbol on the poster. A Reddit post addressing the sign generated nearly 1,000 "upvotes" and 75 comments this week.

One Reddit user, who said they were a Native American Starbucks employee, wrote: "it would've been a great opportunity for the company to feature the tribes located near each region. We suffer enough from erasure. The least they could do is recognize those of us who are still here."

Starbucks has said in internal messages viewed by Insider and in a comment sent to Insider that the similarities were unintentional.

"In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, Starbucks is celebrating Indigenous Peoples across the continental United States, Alaska, and Hawai'i alongside our Indigenous Partner Network (employee network), local communities, and in our stores," a Starbucks spokesperson told Insider.

"Starbucks has always been inspired by what matters most to our partners (employees), which includes working alongside our Indigenous Partner (Employee) Network to develop meaningful partner-led programming and community initiatives that honor our partners' creative vision and intent for Native American Heritage Month."

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