By Sean Rossman, USA TODAY
Walmart stopped selling shirts featuring the word “bulletproof” on Black Lives Matter merchandise after the world’s largest police organization called the slogan offensive.
Walmart said Tuesday it removed the specific item after the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) asked them to in a letter.
“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,” said a Walmart representative. “After hearing concerns from customers, we removed the specific item with the ‘bulletproof’ reference.”
FOP National President Chuck Canterbury, in a letter sent Tuesday to Walmart President and CEO C. Douglas McMillon, called the shirts offensive and said he was concerned Walmart’s decision to sell them would “damage your company’s good name amongst FOP members and active and retired law enforcement officers.”
Canterbury also chided third-party sellers for what he called an attempt to profit off racial division.
“Commercializing our differences will not help our local police and communities to build greater trust and respect for one another,” the letter said. “Turning a buck on strained relationships will not contribute to the healing process.”
The “bulletproof” shirt did not appear on Walmart’s website Thursday morning, but dozens of other “Black Lives Matter” shirts were listed. The Black Lives Matter organization, which describes itself as trying to rebuild the black liberation movement, has risen to prominence for activism in light of police shootings involving African Americans.
Glenn Morelli, the owner of Old Glory Merchandise, the shirt’s maker, said he’s not surprised by the FOP’s request. He got a call from the organization last week and decided he’d pull the shirt himself. He said the shirt now isn’t featured on any of the websites selling Old Glory merchandise.
FOP Executive Director Jim Pasco said his organization doesn’t oppose the “Black Lives Matter” phrase, but does object to those who intend to divide Americans racially. The organization, he said, decided to take action after the shirt was flagged by members.
The FOP also posted a similar letter addressed to Amazon Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos. The letter, dated Wednesday, raised concerns over the slogans “bulletproof,” “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” It urges Amazon to stop selling the items.
“Because I believe you share the FOP’s goal of increasing the bonds of trust between the men and women of law enforcement, I wanted to let you know that my members are very upset that you and Amazon are complicit in the sale of this offensive merchandise,” Canterbury wrote.
A version of the “bulletproof” t-shirts are still available on Amazon, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.