Walmart, Amazon, Sears, eBay to stop selling Confederate flag merchandise

Updated 4:23 PM EDT, Wed June 24, 2015
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Story highlights

NEW: eBay and Amazon join Walmart and Sears in banning Confederate flag merchandise

(CNN) —  

America’s leading merchants have spoken: The Confederate flag is coming off the shelves.

Walmart, Amazon, eBay and Sears all announced bans on the sale of Confederate flag merchandise, amid an intensifying national debate over the use of the controversial flag.

The announcements are the latest indication that the flag, a symbol of the slave-holding South, has become toxic in the aftermath of a shooting last week at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. Gov. Nikki Haley announced in a Monday afternoon news conference that she supports removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds.

“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.”

A spokesperson for Amazon told CNN Tuesday afternoon that the company would also remove Confederate flag merchandise.

Johnna Hoff, an eBay spokesperson, said that the Confederate flag has “become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism.” It is banning the sale of Confederate flags and “many items containing this image,” Hoff said.

RELATED: Nikki Haley calls for removal of Confederate flag

The three companies’ statements came in response to a CNN inquiry Monday.

Sears Holdings Corporation, which operates Sears and Kmart, also said it would remove confederate flag merchandise sold by third-party vendors online. It does not currently sell confederate flags at its stores, Sears Holdings spokesman Chris Brathwaite told CNN.

As of Monday, Walmart.com carried the Confederate flag as well as attire featuring the flag’s design, such as T-shirts and belt buckles, and the auction site eBay also carried the Confederate flag and accessories such as handbags and jewelry. Amazon.com list pages of Confederate flag-related products, ranging from the flag itself to folding knives, T-shirts, blankets and even shower curtains).

Sales of three versions of the flag were up 1,670% to 2,305% over a period of 24 hours, according to Amazon data. One of those flags, priced at $1.80 plus shipping, is currently the ninth best-selling item in the Patio, Lawn & Garden department and the top-selling item among all outdoor flags and banners sold on Amazon.

The long-running debate over displaying the Confederate flag on government buildings took a swift turn after last week’s massacre in Charleston, which left nine African-Americans dead in their church. The shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, has confessed to the murders and has said he wanted to instigate a “race war.”

One widely circulated photo of the shooter holding a gun and a Confederate flag has stirred intense outrage. Critics of the flag quickly called on South Carolina to take down what is widely viewed as a symbol of racism.

Haley on Monday declared it was time to remove the flag from the capitol grounds.

“This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” the second-term governor said, in an announcement that drew thunderous applause and cheers.

Haley was surrounded by many of the state’s elected officials, including Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn and Republican Rep. Mark Sanford.

Many of the 2016 GOP presidential candidates and likely candidates – including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – voiced their support for Haley’s decision following her speech.

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond contributed to this story.