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On 'GMA,' black men arrested at Philly Starbucks say they want to focus on 'positive outcome'

Thursday morning was the second appearance on Good Morning America for the two men, who used an earlier opportunity on the show last month to call for change.

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson talk about agreements they have reached with Starbucks and the city on “Good Morning America” on May 3.
Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson talk about agreements they have reached with Starbucks and the city on “Good Morning America” on May 3.Read moreABC

The two black men whose arrest at a Philadelphia Starbucks drew nationwide attention and sparked days of protest, public apologies, and a racial-bias training program are hoping to turn what happened to them into something positive.

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, both 23, as well as their attorney, Stewart Cohen, sat down with Robin Roberts on ABC's Good Morning America Thursday, a day after they reached agreements with both the city and the Seattle-based coffee chain. It was announced that they would each receive a symbolic $1 payment from Philadelphia and the city would set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs. The agreement releases the city and its employees from "any and all claims."

Starbucks said Wednesday that its agreement includes a "financial settlement" in addition to "continued listening and dialogue between parties and specific action and opportunity." The amount of the financial settlement has not been disclosed.

>> READ MORE: Philadelphia Starbucks case: What we've learned since the arrests

While specific details of the program have yet to be announced, the pair said they hope the program with the city will help Philadelphia public high school students learn about not just entrepreneurship, but subjects like taxes and financial literacy. They said they wish to expand the program beyond Philly in the future.

"The most important thing is the foundation, the fact that we have a seat at the table to work on, you know, reforms that [will be] included in the racial bias training," Nelson said.

>> READ MORE: Starbucks is planning racial bias training. Here's what a Penn professor says it should involve

Robinson told Roberts that he's pleased with how the aftermath of their arrests have been handled by both Starbucks and the city. He said he wants other companies to take a lesson from Starbucks.

"Looking at how we took a negative and turned it into a positive, that's really all we want," he said. "Not to focus on the negative, but just to focus on positive outcome."

Robinson said that the company has also given the two of them the opportunity to take courses to complete their bachelor degrees, which he "can't say" he would be able to pursue at the moment.

"Definitely when I feel as though it's needed, I will," he said.

>> READ MORE: Would you have spoken up during Starbucks arrest of two black men? White teachers at a Delaware County school debate

Cohen said that Nelson and Robinson have a continued relationship with Starbucks following conversations with CEO Kevin Johnson.

"What I've learned from these young men is the importance of action, not words," Cohen said. "They said they were going to take a very bad situation and turn it into something good and they did, and they did it through dialogue and cooperation."

The two also asked Roberts for her help in their cause, which she agreed to.

"It would be my honor, to as you said, let's not make this a moment, but a movement to bring about real change," she said.

In a statement Wednesday, Mayor Kenney shared a similar sentiment.

"Rather than spending time, money, and resources to engage in a potentially adversarial process, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson approached the city and invited us to partner with them in an attempt to make something positive come of this," Kenney said. "This agreement is the result of those conversations, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of this effort in the coming months and years."

The resolutions were announced three weeks after a manager at the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce Streets in Center City called police after the two sat in the store but had not made any purchases while waiting for a business associate.

"Two gentlemen in my cafe… are refusing to make a purchase or leave," she said in the 911 call made about 4:40 p.m. April 12 and later released by Philadelphia police.

Minutes later, a radio dispatcher said a "group of males" was "refusing to leave." Shortly after, a man can be heard saying that a "group of males" was "causing a disturbance" before requesting backup as well as a supervisor.

>> READ MORE: Analysis: Blacks stopped at much higher rate indoors in Center City

An incident report obtained by the Inquirer and Daily News said the two men cursed at the Starbucks store manager and refused to leave after officers repeatedly asked them to. It also accused the men of insulting police by saying, "Cops don't know the laws," and "Y'all make 45G a year."

The arrest was widely seen on Twitter by user @MissyDePino. Her video now has more than 11 million views on the social media platform.

Thursday morning was the second appearance on Good Morning America for the two men, who used an earlier opportunity on the show to call for change.

"I want to make sure that … this situation doesn't happen again," Robinson said at the time. "So what I want is for a young man or young men to not be traumatized by this and instead motivated, inspired."