Some of the country’s biggest corporate names raced to announce this week they are no longer selling items that display the Confederate flag, after the racist shooting last week of nine black churchgoers in Charleston triggered a heated national debate over the flag’s symbolism in American history.
Wal-Mart announced Monday that it would remove any merchandise featuring the Confederate flag from its website and stores. Sears, Kmart, Internet auction giant eBay and shipper Amazon also said they would stop selling items depicting the flag, and bar others from using the Websites as a conduit for such sales.
“Yesterday we looked to make sure we knew what we were selling,” Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon told CNN. “To my surprise we found some [items] and decided to stop selling those products.”
“We just don’t want to sell products that make anyone uncomfortable. We want everybody to feel comfortable shopping at Wal-Mart. We want everyone to feel comfortable working at Wal-Mart,” he added.
Ebay took an even more hard-line stance on the controversy, saying it plans to “prohibit Confederate flags and many items containing this image because we believe it has become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism.”
“This decision is consistent with our longstanding policy that prohibits items that promote or glorify hatred, violence and racial intolerance,” said eBay spokeswoman Johnna Hoff.
Sears, which operates Sears and Kmart stores, does not sell Confederate-themed merchandise at its outlets and has decided to bar sales of such merchandise on its online marketplace offered by third parties, spokesman Chris Brathwaite told the Reuters news agency.
“We are in the process of scrubbing our marketplace to pull those items down,” Mr. Brathwaite said.
As major retailers pulled out of the Confederate merchandising market, sales of the flags paradoxically surged on Amazon, with an increase of more than 3,000 percent over the 24-hour period Monday to Tuesday. Analysts said purchasers were rushing to get their orders in before the ban was put in place.
But under consumer pressure to discontinue its line of items displaying Confederate symbols, Amazon decided to join its retail competitors Tuesday by removing Confederate flag merchandise from its website.
While large companies have responded to mounting pressure from customers against the flag, some smaller businesses said they plan to continue marketing the controversial emblem.
“I’m not here to judge who does what with their flag, I’m just here to provide for America,” Kerry McCoy, owner and president of Arkansas-based FlagandBanner.com, told The Associated Press.
“I don’t sell the Confederate flag for any specific group. I just sell the flag,” he added.