Amazon, eBay ban sales of Confederate flag merchandise

The online retailers' prohibition comes after bans from Walmart and Sears. Google, Etsy and Newegg also make similar changes.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
3 min read

eBay on Tuesday called the Confederate flag "a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism." eBay/Screenshot by CNET

Amazon and eBay -- two of the most prominent online retailers in the US -- said they decided Tuesday to ban sales of the Confederate flag and related merchandise on their sites.

The companies made the change as a quick response to a groundswell of public complaints that the companies were allowing sales of the controversial symbol. Their decisions follow similar bans from retailers Walmart and Sears on Monday. Online retailers Etsy and Newegg also said Tuesday they'd stop selling such merchandise, and Google said it would remove Confederate flag images from Google Shopping and its ads.

Calls to get rid of images of the Confederate flag -- an often controversial symbol, for some of black slavery and for others of Southern history -- have surged in recent days. The public outrage follows a shooting last week in a historic African-American church in South Carolina that left nine people dead and is believed to be racially motivated. The accused shooter, Dylann Roof, was seen in at least one picture found online holding a gun and the Confederate flag.

"We believe it has become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism," eBay spokeswoman Johnna Hoff said in a statement Tuesday about the flag. "This decision is consistent with our long-standing policy that prohibits items that promote or glorify hatred, violence and racial intolerance."

Etsy echoed that position in its own statement Tuesday.

"Today, we are removing Confederate flag items from our marketplace," the company said. "Etsy's policies prohibit items or listings that promote, support or glorify hatred and these items fall squarely into that category."

On Monday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds, a move that appears to have built momentum for the cause to have retailers stop selling Confederate-themed merchandise. Soon after, both Walmart and Sears -- which operates both Kmart and Sears stores -- said they would stop selling Confederate flags and related merchandise, such as T-shirts, hats and belt buckles.

"We have a process in place to help lead us to the right decisions when it comes to the merchandise we sell," Brian Nick, a Walmart spokesman, said in a statement. "Still, at times, items make their way into our assortment improperly -- this is one of those instances."

Calls on social media for other retailers to follow suit rapidly picked up steam, with people requesting that eBay, Amazon and Etsy stop selling items -- from lighters to coffee mugs to bikinis -- designed with the Confederate flag.

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An Amazon webpage showing Confederate flags for sale. Screenshot of Amazon website

One person, Diane Scholten, tweeted Tuesday prior to Amazon's announcement: "@Amazon - I am a Prime member and buy a lot. Stop selling Confederate flag mchdse or I will take my biz elsewhere. SHAME ON YOU!"

Companies running online marketplaces have to draw a fine line with certain types of products. For example, Amazon and eBay, which had long allowed sales of Confederate flag merchandise, continue to sell certain material with Nazi symbols. eBay says it allows some Nazi-related items so long as they're not offensive, such as currency issued by the Nazi Germany government and World War II model kits. Amazon's site on Tuesday had a few listings of Nazi armbands and a German officer hat.

eBay said it plans to start notifying sellers of its decision and begin removing Confederate flag merchandise on Tuesday. Amazon already appeared to be removing Confederate flag merchandise from its site Tuesday.