Walmart to Pull Mississippi Flag from Display Over Confederate Symbol

Retail giant Walmart announced Tuesday it would be removing the Mississippi state flag from display in locations within the state because the flag includes a symbol of the Confederacy.

Mississippi's state flag features the Confederate flag in the upper left-hand corner. Lawmakers and advocacy groups have called for the flag to be redesigned in order to remove the Confederate symbolism. As protests against racism have become more frequent and prevalent in the U.S., Confederate monuments and symbols have become a target for demonstrators. Some southern cities have relocated their Confederate monuments to prevent their destruction during periods of civil unrest. Mississippi is the only state flag that includes a rendering of the Confederate battle flag.

In a statement sent to Newsweek on Tuesday, Walmart spokesperson Anne Hatfield said it was "common practice" for Walmart stores to display state flags. "We know the design of the Mississippi state flag is being discussed by various stakeholders," Hatfield said. "While the issue continues to be discussed, we've made the decision to remove the Mississippi state flag from display in its current form from our stores".

"We believe it's the right thing to do," Hatfield continued, "and is consistent with Walmart's position to not sell merchandise with the confederate flag from stores and online sites, as part of our commitment to provide a welcoming and inclusive experience for all of our customers in the communities we serve."

Walmart announced Tuesday it would remove all Mississippi state flags from its stores within the state, citing Confederate symbolism. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty

Controversy over the flag's symbolism has prompted some to call for either the flag's replacement or redesign. On Tuesday, the Mississippi Baptist Convention (MBC) said lawmakers in the state should remove the Confederate symbol from the state flag.

"While some may see the current flag as a celebration of heritage, a significant portion of our state sees it as a relic of racism and a symbol of hatred," the MBC said in a Tuesday statement. "The racial overtones of this flag's appearance make this discussion a moral issue."

Greg Sankey, the Commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, said in a Thursday statement that if the flag is not changed, "there will be consideration of precluding Southeastern Conference championship events from being conducted in the State of Mississippi until the state flag is changed."

State lawmakers have considered having two state flags or allowing voters to vote on whether or not to keep the current flag. However, leaders in the state's House and Senate do not believe they can garner enough support to push either measure through before the Legislature ends its session on Friday.

The design of the Mississippi state flag has not changed since it was first approved in 1894 by the Mississippi legislature. In 2001, the design of the flag was placed on a statewide referendum. More than 60 percent of voters cast their ballots to leave the Confederate symbol on the flag.

At the University of Mississippi, one of the state's most famous Confederate statues was vandalized during a protest in May. In a May statement, the university's Chancellor Glenn Boyce said it was "time for change."

"For me, that means moving the monument away from the center of our campus," Boyce continued. "There is more to do, but this needs to happen."

On Thursday, the school's Board of Trustees agreed to relocate the statue from its location near the administration building to the campus cemetery.