Two of the nation’s largest retail companies, Walmart and Sears, have announced that they will no longer carry merchandise bearing the Confederate flag, which has become a centerpiece for discussion as a symbol of the historically racist past throughout the Deep South.
In the days since the Mother Emanuel AME church shooting (in which nine Black churchgoers were killed) last week, the Confederate flag has come under fire after 21-year-old shooting suspect Dylann Roof‘s now-defunct website featured the flag in several photos.
For years, South Carolina activists have taken efforts to have the Confederate flag removed from the State Capitol grounds. This past Monday, governor Nikki Haley announced her support in having the flag taken down.
As reported by CNN, Walmart carried several items that featured the flag, such as belts and shirts. After the news site pushed for a comment from the retail giant, the company responded swiftly.
“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.”
Although Sears does not carry flag merchandise in its physical stores, third-party vendors do sell such material online. Sears Holding Corporation, which oversees Sears and Kmart, says it will ban the sale of the items via those channels.
Adding to the brewing controversy, Republican Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn also said on Monday the Confederate symbols in its state flag should be removed. Gov. Phil Bryant was quoted by The Clarion Ledger stating that the flag’s place in the state is by the “will of the people” and doesn’t expect there to be a vote on its removal.
The state of Virginia is also getting tough on the flag, with Gov. Terry McAuliffe announcing earlier today the removal of the image on vehicle license plates.