In an interview with sports reporter Graham Bensinger, Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal revealed that his biggest business mistake was turning down an endorsement for Starbucks – because he didn’t believe black people drank coffee.
“I’d never seen a black person drink coffee,” he told Yahoo Sports. “In my house, it was always sweet tea and hot chocolate.”
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz had reached out to O’Neal to help promote the now iconic coffee chain when it first began moving into predominantly African-American communities. But O’Neal’s belief that black people stick to sweet tea and hot chocolate apparently got in his way.
“I looked at the great Howard Schultz’s face and said ‘Black people don’t drink coffee, sir, I don’t think it’s gonna work.’ And you should have seen the look on his face,” said O’Neal.
Of course, O’Neal’s assumption about black-America’s breakfast beverage of choice turned out to be wrong. Earvin “Magic” Johnson ended up taking the offer after O’Neal passed on it, and made over $27 million.
“Now, we’re still good friends today but that was one of my worst business decisions because now, every time, on every corner in every city, every country, you see a Starbucks …I’m like ‘aw,’” he said, slapping his forehead.
It turns out, the love of coffee is colorblind.
Even if Shaq isn’t.