Walmart, the world’s largest private sector employer, directed its workers to remove violent video game displays and signs following two deadly shootings inside of its stores. This comes the same week that Universal pulled ads in its marketing campaign for an upcoming violent thriller “The Hunt,” and after ESPN and ABC pulled the broadcast of the X Games “Apex Legends,” a newly minted esports tournament.
Walmart stores were sent a memo, which circulated on Twitter, calling for “immediate action” to remove signs and displays that “contain violent themes or aggressive behavior.”
“We've taken this action out of respect for the incidents of the past week, and this action does not reflect a long-term change in our video game assortment," said Tara House, of Walmart's Corporate Communications department, in an emailed statement Friday morning.
On Saturday, 22 people were killed and 24 injured at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, days after two Walmart managers were killed by a disgruntled employee at a different Walmart in Southaven, Miss. Walmart said previously it does not plan to stop selling guns. Walmart is one of the nation’s largest sellers of firearms and ammunition, with such items available in about half of its 4,750 U.S.-based stores.
The retail chain has altered its gun policies over the years, halting sales of military-style rifles in 2015. After a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018, Walmart raised the minimum age for gun and ammunition purchases from 18 to 21.
“We are focused on assisting our associates and their families, as well as supporting the community, as we continue a thoughtful and thorough review of our policies," House added.
President Trump blamed, in part, “gruesome and grisly video games,” as well as mental health issues, for mass shootings in America. While often referenced by lawmakers are a cause of mass shootings, there has been little to no evidence that violent video games contribute to such incidents.
“We are a learning organization, and, as you can imagine, we will work to understand the many important issues that arise from El Paso and Southaven, as well as those that have been raised in the broader national discussion around gun violence,” Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon said. “We will be thoughtful and deliberate in our responses, and we will act in a way that reflects the best values of our company, with a focus on serving the needs of our customers, associates and communities.”
ESPN still plans to air its broadcast of the Apex Legends tournament, rescheduling it for three dates in October on ESPN2, according to a person with direct knowledge of the network’s plans. Apex Legends pits teams against one another as they use scavenged weaponry to be the last-team standing in a battle royale-style, first-person shooter game.
According to the memo, Walmart stores were told:
- Turn off or unplug any video game consoles that show a demo of violent games, specifically PlayStation and Xbox units;
- Cancel any events promoting combat-style or third-person shooter games that may be scheduled in Electronics;
- Verify that no movies depicting violence are playing in Electronics;
- Turn off any hunting season videos that may be playing in Sporting Goods, and remove any monitors or displays that show the videos;
- Check all signing throughout the store and remove any referencing combat or third-person shooter video games.