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Walmart, Kmart, and Sears Remove Confederate Flag From Stores; Amazon, eBay Undecided

The Confederate battle flag is suddenly toxic.

CNN (“Walmart to stop selling Confederate flag merchandise“):

Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, will remove all Confederate flag merchandise from its stores, the company told CNN Monday.

The announcement is the latest indication that the flag, a symbol of the slave-holding South, has become toxic in the aftermath of a shooting last week at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. Gov. Nikki Haley announced in a Monday afternoon news conference that she supports removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds.

Walmart.com currently carries the Confederate flag as well as attire featuring the flag’s design, such as T-shirts and belt buckles.

“We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer. We have taken steps to remove all items promoting the confederate flag from our assortment — whether in our stores or on our web site,” said Walmart spokesman Brian Nick. “We have a process in place to help lead us to the right decisions when it comes to the merchandise we sell. Still, at times, items make their way into our assortment improperly — this is one of those instances.”

Sears Holdings Corporation, the owner of Kmart and Sears, also said Monday it would stop selling confederate flag merchandise online. It does not currently sell confederate flags at its stores.

“We are in the process of scrubbing our marketplace to pull those items down,” Sears Holdings spokesman Chris Brathwite told Reuters.

It’s mildly amusing that Kmart, considered by many the bottom of the discount store food chain, had already gotten rid of Confederate merchandise in its stores while Walmart hadn’t. Less amusing is that it took yet another murder spree and a call from CNN to prompt it after all these years. There’s still Amazon and eBay, however:

Amazon.com lists pages of Confederate flag-related merchandise, ranging from the flag itself to folding knives, T-shirts, blankets and even shower curtains.

eBay also carries the Confederate flag and accessories such as handbags and jewelry. The online auction site’s “offensive material policy” bans the sale of items that “promote hatred or racial supremacy including historic and current items.”

In fairness, those sites have a different business model than the big box stores, selling a lot of third party vendor merchandise; eBay is almost exclusively that. It’ll be interesting if the sites make it harder to sell Confederate merchandise in the future.

UPDATE:  Both eBay and Amazon have now joined suit, saying they will ban items incorporating the Confederate battle flag.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    About f**king time……..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  2. John Peabody says:

    “Oh no, the flag is being banned! What about free speech?” –sure to be said by yahoos today.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. TheoNott says:

    I don’t know how I feel about this, really. Obviously I don’t like the Confederate flag, but if somebody wants to tack it up on their dorm wall I don’t really care. That’s their First Amendment right. What angers me is that there is still so much state-sanctioned veneration of the Confederacy here in the South. There are still plenty of major roads here in South Carolina named after Confederate leaders. (I regularly drive down a Wade Hampton Blvd for example) I would much rather see that changed than Wal-Mart cease selling Confederate branded merchandise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  4. Phil Wilson says:

    I’m not from the south. I have no cultural connection to that flag, and I never had any urge to obtain or display one. But somehow, the very fact that the thought police are on the offensive makes me tempted to do it.

    Whether it is displayed on government buildings is worth discussing. Further, private business concerns can use it or not. Up to them (and, indirectly, to their customers). But it absolutely is protected expression. Any effort to suppress expression of ideas, no matter how unpopular, should be met with immediate, aggressive, and persistent resistance. And it doesn’t matter how unpopular the ideas are. As many have said, ideas which offend some people, even if they offend 99.99% of the population, are exactly the ones that require legal protection.

    The government does not get to decide what ideas are allowed to be expressed. Neither does the public. Freedom to express ideas is an inalienable right of free people subject neither to the democratic process nor arguments of social utility.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  5. Gustopher says:

    Given some of the things Amazon does sell, I would be very surprised if they removed confederate flag merchandise from their site. They sell racist literature all the time, as part of their desire to have every book ever.

    I could see them confederate flag junk harder to find, and not suggesting it in recommendations. Sort of like what they do with sex toys.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. rodney dill says:

    The south will just have to get their confederate merchandise at Alibaba

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. grumpy realist says:

    @Phil Wilson: Since where is the Confederate flag being “repressed”? WalMart has made the decision that it’s more customer-friendly (i.e. it looks better to the public) to NOT sell something used by racist and segregationist slobs. It’s like a tee-shirt manufacturer deciding not to sell tee-shirts emblazoned with “Beat your wife to keep her in line.”

    If you want to make the Confederate flag acceptable again, you’ll have to keep it out of the hands of white trash punks who only think of using it to say a big “F*ck YOU!” to their darker-skinned neighbors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. EddieInCA says:

    @Phil Wilson:

    The government does not get to decide what ideas are allowed to be expressed. Neither does the public. Freedom to express ideas is an inalienable right of free people subject neither to the democratic process nor arguments of social utility.

    Since when are Sears, Walmart, and KMart “The Government”. Seems to me businesses are choosing to make a choice based on the market. Isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @Phil Wilson: The government gets to decide what the government says. No one said your roomie can’t put up a flag. “I’m an ignorant redneck and proud of it.” is protected speech. Otherwise we’re talking about business decisions. They’re embarrassed and they don’t want to face protests and vandalism. Why do conservative hate free enterprise?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  10. CSK says:

    @rodney dill:

    Oh, man , I soooo want that “fashion buckle” with the skull in the center. It’ll look fab with my little black dress and pearls.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. bookdragon says:

    @Gustopher: De-listing it for recommendations would be a good first step.

    However, I’d almost hate to see it banned there since Amazon reviewers are having a field day. Recent reviews and questions are replete with ‘Does it burn well?’ and ‘Is there a version with a swastika on the other side?’

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. Target: Because you’re willing to pay more not to hang out with Walmart shoppers

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  13. An Interested Party says:

    The government does not get to decide what ideas are allowed to be expressed. Neither does the public. Freedom to express ideas is an inalienable right of free people subject neither to the democratic process nor arguments of social utility.

    Well, using that logic, Nazi flags should be sold in stores…free speech and all…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. rodney dill says:

    @An Interested Party: At least online. I assume there are also brick and mortar stores somewhere, probably not many.

    I did find you can also buy an ISIS hoodie, not sure if they have a flag or not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. Ebay has just said they’re not going to list stuff with the Confederate flag on them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Matt says:

    I hope amazon keeps selling the flag.

    I have no issue with the flag being sold or nazi flags being sold. It’s not like buying a Nazi flag will suddenly cause you to transform into a Nazi.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. aFloridian says:

    I have no problem with retailers choosing not to carry the flag. There will always be somewhere online where people can buy it if they really want it.

    As an eBayer myself, I feel rather differently about eBay putting that imposition on their sellers, but note I’m not crying free speech regarding a private company.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Tyrell says:

    @TheoNott: A lot of our town has streets named after southern army generals. I would like to see some streets named after some of the northern generals: Grant – unconditional surrender, Sherman – war is h _ _ _ , Burnside – irrepressible, Hooker – fighting Joe, McClellan – little Mac, Custer – bravest of all, Sheridan – ever present.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. al-Ameda says:

    The Confederate battle flag is suddenly toxic.
    CNN (“Walmart to stop selling Confederate flag merchandise“):

    I must say, this, in addition to various Southern states taking action to remove to reduce the profile and presence of the Confederate Flag, feels like a sea change, like the Berlin Wall coming down. It is remarkable and it is welcome.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0