Walmart Just Pulled These "Inappropriate" Boots Amid Backlash
A civil rights and advocacy group brought the shoes to the retailer's attention.
Walmart is known for its affordable apparel options, helping savvy shoppers stay on-trend for less. Per plans announced last summer, the retailer is also adding new clothing lines and big-name brands to its inventory, testing how items perform in several redesigned stores. But recently, a certain pair of "inappropriate" boots sold on Walmart Marketplace caused a stir, prompting the retailer to remove them entirely. Read on to find out why these controversial shoes were pulled.
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The boots displayed a concerning acronym.
Walmart Marketplace is a popular spot for third-party sellers to peddle their wares through the retailer's website. But over the weekend, one item popped up on Marketplace and landed the retailer in hot water.
According to Insider, the Harsuny Men's Tactical Military Hiking Ankle Boot Outdoor Trekking Shoes were dropped from Marketplace on Walmart.com, as they had "KKK" printed in red on the shoe's tongue. The boots retailed for around $50, per an image of the product page posted by Insider.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a civil rights and advocacy group, first brought the shoes to Walmart's attention, Insider reported. A CAIR spokesperson told the outlet that they received an email tip about the boots, prompting the organization to reach out to Walmart Corporate and "respectfully ask that they be removed."
Walmart said the products "aren't in line" with company values.
In a Jan. 7 press release, CAIR publicly thanked Walmart for pulling the shoes. "We thank Walmart for dropping an online listing for oddly/poorly named 'KKK' boots after we brought this to their attention earlier today," the organization said in a statement.
A Walmart spokesperson confirmed that these shoes were sold by a third-party retailer (not Walmart) and aren't in line with the company's overall values. "This item was listed by an outside third-party seller and removed because the item is inconsistent with our values and violates Walmart's prohibited product policy," the spokesperson told Best Life. "Like other major retailers, we operate an online marketplace that allows third-party sellers to offer merchandise to customers through our eCommerce platform. We have a process in place designed to prevent third-party sellers from offering inappropriate items on our platform. Still, at times, inappropriate items make their way onto our platform."
The spokesperson also confirmed that the situation is being investigated. "We are reviewing how this happened and will apply what we learn to further improve our rules and processes to prevent the sale of inappropriate merchandise," they wrote.
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Marketplace sellers have to follow Walmart's policies.
According to a Marketplace FAQ page, third-party retailers must apply and gain approval from Walmart, and they are required to follow company policies. In the retailer's "prohibited products policy," a subsection for "offensive content" notes prohibited items as those containing racial slurs, symbols of intolerance, and association with hate groups, among others.
It isn't clear how long the hiking boots were available for purchase on Marketplace, but links to the product on Walmart.com now say "this page could not be found."
This isn't the first time Walmart pulled controversial products.
In May 2022, Walmart was forced to pull ice cream products after considerable backlash. The big-name retailer introduced a Great Value-branded ice cream flavor in recognition of Juneteenth, which commemorates the ending of slavery in the U.S. on June 19, 1865. The ice cream's packaging asked customers to "Share and Celebrate African-American culture, emancipation and enduring hope," but shoppers were quick to call the retailer out for capitalizing on the holiday.
"I would prefer a black owned company profit off Juneteenth ice cream than Walmart of all companies," one Twitter user wrote on May 22, 2022. Another pointed out that the Great Value flavor—swirled red velvet and cheesecake—was eerily similar to one from Cremalicious, a Black-owned ice cream company based in Chicago. In an odd twist, USA Today reported that Cremalicious actually sells its Right as Rain Red Velvet Cheesecake ice cream in Walmart stores.
In response to the criticism, Walmart booted the ice cream and apologized. "Juneteenth holiday marks a commemoration and celebration of freedom and independence," a spokesperson previously told Best Life. "However, we received feedback that a few items caused concern for some of our customers and we sincerely apologize. We are reviewing our assortment and will remove items as appropriate."