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Walmart to stop selling “Bulletproof: Black Lives Matter” shirts after police protest

A protester wearing a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt in Minnesota last summer at a demonstration after the death of Philando Castile. Similar, but not identical, t-shirts and sweatshirts are being offered for sale on Walmart’s website. (Reuters/Eric Miller)
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UPDATE, Wed., 6 p.m.: The Fraternal Order of Police has now sent a similar request to Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

ORIGINAL POST: The president of the national Fraternal Order of Police, the country’s largest police organization, on Tuesday asked Walmart to stop selling t-shirts and sweatshirts which say “Black Lives Matter” and “Bulletproof” on the department store’s website. On Tuesday night, Walmart said it would remove the shirts which say “Bulletproof,” but not the “Black Lives Matter” shirts.

“Black Lives Matter” is a slogan and protest movement which emerged after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and police-involved slayings in 2014, and is seen as offensive by many in law enforcement. The website posted an article last week which said that Walmart was “selling Black Lives Matter clothing and other items,” though the merchandise is actually being sold through Walmart’s website by Old Glory Merchandise, a music and entertainment apparel dealer out of Connecticut.

Chuck Canterbury, the FOP president, wrote to Walmart CEO C. Douglas McMillon Tuesday to advise him that the Walmart website was selling “offensive shirts and sweatshirts,” and “I urge you to prohibit the use of the Walmart name and website for the retail sale of these products.” The Walmart site and Old Glory’s site also sell “Blue Lives Matter” shirts.

Canterbury said he understood that a third party was selling the merchandise, but “I am concerned that allowing these articles to be sold in this way will damage your company’s good name amongst FOP members and other active and retired law enforcement officers.” Canterbury added, “Commercializing our differences will not help our local police and communities to build greater trust and respect for one another.”

Walmart issued a statement Tuesday night saying that, “Like other online retailers, we have a marketplace with millions of items offered by third parties that includes Blue Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter merchandise. After hearing concerns from customers, we are removing the specific item with the ‘bulletproof’ reference.” The “bulletproof” shirts say “Bulletproof” with “Black Lives Matter” beneath that line.

Chris Kappelman, the head buyer for Old Glory, said Wednesday that Walmart had not contacted his company before removing some of their product. But he noted that Old Glory sells more than a half million shirts, including “All Lives Matter” and “All Matter Matters,” and they were not looking to offend anyone. He said they had removed the “Bulletproof” shirts from other third-party sites as well.

Jim Pasco, the executive director of the police union in Washington, said the issue was raised by union members who felt Walmart was selling anti-police items. “There are a lot of people who feel too many guns are sold,” Pasco said. “Why not speak out against things that might be seen as fomenting violence, rather than things that commit violence?”

Canterbury’s letter is below: