Commentary

Retailers Take Down Confederate Merchandise

Major retailers and online merchants including Amazon, eBay, Sears Holdings, Etsy and Google Shopping are following Walmart’s lead and say they will no longer sell Confederate flags or merchandise bearing them. 

“‘We have decided to prohibit Confederate flags and many items containing this image because we believe it has become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism,’ eBay said in a statement, echoing the sentiments of others in the aftermath of the fatal shooting last week of nine black parishioners in a South Carolina church and the arrest of a white suspect,” reports Hilary Stout in the New York Times.

Dylann Roof, who confessed to the murders, had said he wanted to instigate a “race war,” writes CNN’s MJ Lee, noting “one widely circulated photo of the shooter holding a gun and a Confederate flag has stirred intense outrage.”

advertisement

advertisement

As other retailers made similar announcements, Amazon remained silent through mid-afternoon yesterday, Stout reports. But “after emotional posts poured onto the company’s Facebook page, a company official confirmed that it would take down all Confederate merchandise.”

On Monday, writes Sarah Kaplan in the Washington Post, Walmart “took another step into the politically and emotionally charged arena of America’s culture wars.” The company has apparently reversed it aversion to taking “symbolic stands” that can be traced back to the business philosophy of founder Sam Walton. 

“In a single sweeping move, it eliminated all Confederate-flag-adorned items from its website: a T-shirt emblazoned with the blue, red and gray banner and the words ‘Rebel Firefighter.’ A belt buckle bearing the flag and the words ‘Country Girl.’ Towels. Bandannas. Swimsuits. And flags, of course. Plenty of them,” Kaplan reports.

But “sellers are noting unusually high demand for Confederate flags, and merchandise like Confederacy dog T-shirts and rebel soldier troll dolls are still available for purchase,” Neal Ungerleider noted in reporting the news about eBay’s ban for Fast Company. (Those items were not available this morning, however.) On Amazon, “sales of three versions of the flag were up 1,670% to 2,305% over a period of 24 hours,” CNN’s Lee reports. 

“I don't sell the Confederate flag for any specific group, I just sell the flag,” Kerry McCoy, owner and president of Arkansas' FlagandBanner.com tells the AP’s Tom Murphy. “This is America. Everybody has a right to be represented whether you are a history buff or a nut.”

McCoy anticipates sales of about 50 flags over the next week. “That’s about half of what they typically sell in a year,” Murphy writes, which suggests the surge may have more to do with speculation than anything else.

“Actual flag makers say there isn't much of a market anyway for the Confederate version in the U.S.,” report Gregg Zoroya and Hadley Malcolm for USA Today. Reggie Vandenbosch, chairman of the Flag Manufacturers Association of America, tells them “it's not even a tenth of a percent of the overall business.”

But the association intends to discuss whether to continue manufacturing the flag and the company where Vandenbosch is VP of sales, Valley Forge Flag, will no longer sell it. 

“There's been a sea change moment out there and the issue has really come to light,” he tells Zoroya and Malcolm. “We're just simply not going to participate in production or selling of these out of sensitivity and not wanting to create anybody any additional emotional pain.”

Reuters’s Edward McAllister reports on several other manufacturers and sellers that are discontinuing the flag including Dixie Flag Manufacturing Co., whose owner, Pete Van de Putte, “told Reuters late on Tuesday his firm would stop producing the flags as well, after earlier saying production would continue despite the controversy. He said one customer on Monday asked for their largest Confederate flag so he could burn it,” writes McAllister.

Beyond the flag, and widespread calls to ban its display in public spaces including the South Carolina State House grounds,  “tributes to the Confederacy and the Jim Crow era … still abound in the Deep South and beyond more than a century after the end of the Civil War,” the AP reports in a round-up of the more prominent examples. 

At least one former supporter of the flag wrote a piece bearing the tag “mea culpa” for the Daily Beast.

“I spent a decade defending the Confederate flag that is yet again the center of so much controversy,” writes Jack Hunter, Charleston, S.C.-based conservative radio personality once known as the “Southern Avenger.” “I argued the Confederate flag wasn’t about race. I believed it. Millions of well-meaning Southerners believe it, too.

“I was wrong. That flag is always about race.”

Next story loading loading..