Flag makers in the promotional products industry have decided to stop selling Confederate flags in the wake of the recent mass shooting at a historic African-American church in Charleston, SC. Quinn Flags (asi/80228), Eder Flag Manufacturing Co. (asi/51678), Valley Forge Flag Co. (asi/93250) and Annin Flagmakers (asi/36256) are among the companies that have pulled Confederate flags from their stocks.
“It’s morally and ethically appropriate to make this announcement showing that the historical symbolism of this flag needs to be just that – history,” Matthew Quinn, president of Hanover, PA-based Quinn Flags, said in a statement. “The time has come to make a stand and end the feelings of hate and racism that many feel when they see the Confederate flag.”
For Valley Forge, the tragedy in Charleston hit close to home. The Wyomissing, PA-based supplier has four manufacturing and distribution plants in and around Charleston. Christopher Binner, vice president of sales and marketing, said that approximately 75% of the employees in those plants are African-American. “We would never want to make a product that offends people, including our own employee base, and this flag does offend people,” said Binner. “The decision was an easy one and unanimous among the executive level. Unfortunately, it took a horrific tragedy to bring this to the forefront.”
Oak Creek, WI-based Eder Flag expressed similar sentiments in a statement that read in part: “Eugene Eder, the company’s former long-time owner, fought in World War II against the forces of bigotry, hatred and tyranny. Mr. Eder’s primary reason to own and operate Eder Flag after serving in the U.S. Navy was to produce American flags, a symbol of freedom and opportunity. The recent events in Charleston, SC and motivating factors behind those events, coupled with Mr. Eder’s legacy, led to our decision to no longer manufacture or sell these types of flags.”
Mary Repke, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Annin Flagmakers, said that the Roseland, NJ-based company has halted all sales of the Confederate Battle and Confederate Field Artillery flags in all sizes and materials. “Flags are very powerful symbols, and these flags have come to represent a very negative aspect of our nation’s past,” she said.
The decision by these manufacturers to stop selling Confederate flags has drawn a mixed response from customers and the public, with some applauding the move and others criticizing it. “We’ve had an equal amount positive and negative reaction,” said Repke. “Some of our customers told us they would have done the same thing, and others have not been happy. Everyone has a right to their opinion. But we have the right to manufacture or not manufacture particular flags.”
Overall, Confederate flags were a small portion of industry flag makers’ business. “We sell about 1,000 out of the total 10 million flags we do,” said Repke, noting the flags typically were purchased by historical reenactment groups. Quinn’s customers were predominantly historical associations, said General Manager Ryan Halvorsen. “The sales were fairly seasonal, usually around spring and summer holidays like Memorial Day and Fourth of July,” Halvorsen said.
Outside the promo industry, major retailers that include Sears, Walmart, eBay and Amazon have nixed sales of Confederate merchandise. This includes everything from T-shirts and folding knives to belt buckles, jewelry and more.
Confederate symbols have been at the center of heated debates since accused murderer Dylann Roof, 21, allegedly killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church – one of America’s oldest black churches – in Charleston on June 17. Roof reportedly targeted the church and its congregants for racial reasons. Images later emerged of Roof holding a gun and waving a Confederate flag. Following the murders, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley asked the state legislature to remove Confederate flags from the state capitol.