Sears and Kmart Just Pulled This Controversial Item From Their Websites

·4 min read

Anyone who's spent a few minutes on the internet knows you're bound to come across something offensive, but it's not typically something we expect when online shopping with major retailers. But that's exactly what happened recently at Sears and Kmart, which caused outrage over the sale of a t-shirt that harkened back to the Capitol riots in January. Amid the backlash, both retailers have pulled the shirts from their websites. Read on to find out about the shirt that sparked the controversy.

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Sears and Kmart had been selling this controversial t-shirt on their websites.

Sears and Kmart's online stores were recently selling t-shirts that read, "Ashli Babbitt, American Patriot." Ashli Babbitt was a participant in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, where rioters stormed the building in order to interrupt and protest the congressional certification of President Joe Biden's victory over former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. According to The New York Times, Babbitt was one of five people killed during the insurrection. She was shot by a Capitol Police officer while attempting to climb through a broken window on a door that led to the Speaker's Lobby.

A reporter pointed the shirt out on Twitter and soon, Sears and Kmart removed the item.

On July 6, Vox reporter Aaron Rupar tweeted a screenshot of one of the shirts, which features the text and an American flag print on a black tee, and linked to its availability on Sears' and Kmart's websites. Twitter users soon responded in outrage. "Kmart and Sears are selling a t-shirt that says 'Ashli Babbitt was a patriot' so it looks like I'll have to continue to never shop there," one Twitter user wrote on July 6, which has garnered more than 3,000 retweets and over 22,500 likes so far. Another user tweeted, "And they wonder why they keep losing business and have to keep closing stores."

However, there are also some supporters of the shirt and Babbitt. One Twitter user called it a "perfect shirt" in a tweet that's amassed nearly 1,000 likes.

As of July 7, both retailers have pulled the shirts from their online stores. The official Sears account replied to Rupar's tweets, thanking him for "bringing this product to our attention. This item is no longer available for purchase on http://Sears.com or http://kmart.com." The previously functioning links for the t-shirts now direct shoppers to a page that reads: "Sorry this item is temporarily unavailable."

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The t-shirts appear to have been added to the retailers' websites by a third-party seller.

Seemingly, none of the t-shirts were sold in-stores by Sears and Kmart. According to MarketWatch, the shirts appear to have been added by a third-party seller to both websites shortly after the Jan. 6 insurrection. Best Life has reached out to Transformco, which is the parent company that owns both Sears and Kmart, for confirmation that the shirts were being sold by a third party but has not yet heard back.

Amazon reportedly still had "Ashli Babbitt American Patriot" t-shirt, in the style of Shepard Fairey's iconic Barack Obama "Hope" poster, on its website for sale as of the morning of July 7, according to The Root. The shirt, sold through a third-party seller named Huskite, has seemingly since been removed.

Items sold by third-party sellers have recently caused controversy for other major retailers.

Major retail chains like Sears, Kmart, and Walmart have embraced third-party sellers to become more competitive in the digital marketplace, but the shift hasn't been without controversy. In late June, Walmart was hit with a lawsuit from Kanye West. A third-party seller was offering a pair of knockoffs of Kanye West's Yeezy Foam Runner shoes on Walmart's website, prompting West to sue the retailer. He claimed they were profiting off his name by selling shoes that look "virtually indistinguishable" from the originals.

Also, a year ago, Walmart announced that it was pulling all "All Lives Matter" merchandise from its website "indefinitely." These items also came from third-party sellers. "We fundamentally believe all lives do matter and every individual deserves respect," Walmart said in a statement to USA Today. "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."

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