Merchandise bearing controversial Confederate flag imagery will soon get harder to find online and on store shelves.
Walmart, the country's largest retailer, will no longer sell Confederate flag merchandise, the company announced in a statement on Monday. Retail company Sears Holding Corp, which operates Kmart and Sears department stores, also said it would remove Confederate flag items sold on its website via third parties, a spokesman told Reuters. And Amazon confirmed on Tuesday that they too are pulling Confederate flag items.
Walmart.com currently offers Confederate flag reproductions, as well as t-shirts, belt buckles, decals and other items that bear the symbol.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, backed by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers, on Monday called for the removal of the Confederate flag from outside the state capitol building. The governor's announcement represented a potential turning point in the controversy surrounding the flag, which had long been championed as a symbol of Southern tradition and pride. Following Haley's announcement, Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn also said that the emblem is offensive and that it should be removed from his state's flag.
The calls for the flag's removal as state symbols and the decision by Walmart come in wake of a massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, that was reportedly racially motivated. The shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, allegedly cited a white supremacist group in a racist manifesto. He was also pictured holding a Confederate flag — all of which sparked a renewed controversy over the symbol.
"We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer," Walmart said in a statement released Monday. "We have taken steps to remove all items promoting the confederate flag from our assortment — whether in our stores or on our web site. 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."
Haley's call for the flag's removal garnered support among numerous Republicans, many of which had tread carefully around the topic previous to the governor's announcement.
Walmart reportedly released the statement in response to an inquiry by CNN. The media outlet also asked Amazon and eBay whether they would stop selling Confederate flag merchandise but did not receive responses from either company.