Business

Walmart pulls 'All Lives Matter' shirts following protests, but Amazon is still selling them

Walmart has pulled merchandise bearing the slogan All Lives Matter sold by independent dealers on its website. Amazon still sells the items despite customer complaints.

Some 'Blue Lives Matter' and 'Drunk Wives Matter' shirts remain on Walmart's website

An 'All Lives Matter' T-shirt currently selling on the Amazon.ca website. Some customers have objected to the sale of merchandise bearing the slogan, which they feel dilutes the message of the Black Lives Matter movement by downplaying the disproportionate impact of police violence and racism on Black people. (Amazon.ca)

Walmart has pulled merchandise bearing the slogan "All Lives Matter" sold by independent dealers on its website. The move follows outrage expressed on social media that the phrase disparages the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Meanwhile, Amazon continues to sell the items, despite customer complaints.

Walmart started getting called out in June for carrying clothing with variations on the Black Lives Matter slogan and said it would review the merchandise. 

Although the retail giant has eliminated its "All Lives Matter" items, some related merchandise remains. 

Items still for sale include apparel stating, "Blue Lives Matter" — which refers to police — and T-shirts with joke slogans such as "Drunk Wives Matter and "Irish Lives Matter" that supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement say aren't funny at all and undermine the original message.

Laurel Tubman of Toronto complained to Walmart on Twitter last month about the "Lives Matter" apparel, which she calls "inflammatory garbage." She said she's disappointed the retailer hasn't removed all related items.

WATCH | Walmart said in June it would review the merchandise with 'All Lives Matter' and other variations on the Black Lives Matter slogan:

Walmart Canada says it's investigating to see if items sold on its website breach the company's "terms and conditions" after social media users expressed outrage over "All Lives Matter" and "Blue Lives Matter" products on its site. 2:22

"There's no such thing as half-measures," she told CBC News. "When it just makes a mockery of [Black Lives Matter] — like 'Drunk Wives Matter' — those are the kind of things that just need to come down."

Black Lives Matter is a global activist movement advocating for an end to police brutality and anti-Black racism. Proponents argue slogans claiming that other "lives matter" undermine the Black Lives Matter message by discounting the disproportionate racism that Black people face, especially at the hands of police. 

"It's just an attempt to take the power out of Black Lives Matter," said Cheryl Thompson, a professor at Ryerson University's School of Creative Industries in Toronto. "It just completely silences it." 

Walmart also sells "Black Lives Matter" merchandise.

In a written statement, Walmart said it pulled "All Lives Matter" products on its site following complaints from employees and customers.

Cheryl Thompson, an assistant professor at the School of Creative Industries at Toronto's Ryerson University, said counter slogans like 'All Lives Matter' are a way of silencing the Black Lives Matter movement. (Submitted by Calla Evans)

"We fundamentally believe all lives do matter and every individual deserves respect," said the retailer. "However, as we listened, we came to understand that the way some, but not all, people are using the phrase 'All Lives Matter' in the current environment intentionally minimized the focus on the painful reality of racial inequity."

Walmart said it's increasing scrutiny of the other "Lives Matter" products sold on its website to ensure compliance with its terms and conditions. 

Walmart still allows third-party sellers to sell Blue Lives Matter merchandise on its site, which is seen as a slogan supporting police, alongside Black Lives Matter products. (Walmart U.S. )

Thompson suggests Walmart chose not to remove all of the "Lives Matter" merchandise that sparked controversy to appease customers who say the slogans are innocuous.

"It's always this weird balance that they're trying to strike between trying to appear as if they're on the side of social justice but then also not basically pissing off the non-social justice people."

Walmart's decision to pull its "All Lives Matter" shirts has already generated criticism on social media from some people. 

Amazon sells variety of 'lives matter' T-shirts

Amazon still allows independent dealers to sell "All Lives Matter" apparel on its website, angering some customers.

"Is this a joke? Or so racists can identify each other?" Carla Tilt of Hamilton commented in the customer review section underneath one of the shirts sold on Amazon Canada's site. 

Amazon sells merchandise sporting joke variations of the 'All Lives Matter' slogan that some people say are not funny but offensive to those impacted by racism and police violence. (Amazon)

The retail giant also sells "Blue Lives Matter" apparel and T-shirts bearing slogans meant to be humorous, such as "Clown Lives Matter" and "Pitbull Lives Matter." Like Walmart, the items sell alongside "Black Lives Matter" merchandise on the site. 

Amazon did not respond to a CBC News inquiry about the apparel and customer complaints. 

Last month, Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, made headlines when he championed the Black Lives Matter movement and publicly denounced a customer who argued that all lives matter.

"'Black Lives Matter' speaks to racism and the disproportionate risk that Black people face in our law enforcement and justice system," Bezos responded to the customer on his Instagram page. 

Laurel Tubman of Toronto wants Walmart to remove any 'Lives Matter' merchandise other than items with the original Black Lives Matter slogan. (Submitted by Laurel Tubman)

Tubman, who protested Walmart's "All Lives Matter" apparel, said it's hypocritical for a retailer to announce its support for Black Lives Matter but then sell merchandise that hurts the cause. 

"They still want to make a buck and will still sell things that have pretty offensive statements."

Thompson suggests Amazon views itself as a large flea market that isn't responsible for what third-party vendors sell on its site. 

"They're hosting so many — tens of thousands of people selling products," she said. "Amazon probably takes the point of view of, 'Well, we're not in control of what these businesses sell. We're just the platform.'"

Amazon also sells "Blue Lives Murder" shirts, which have generated complaints that they're offensive to police officers. More than 74,000 people have signed an online petition asking the retailer to remove the items.

About the Author

Sophia Harris

Business reporter

Sophia Harris covers business and consumer news. Contact: sophia.harris@cbc.ca

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