Etsy has removed a range of items related to the far-right Proud Boys organization, telling The Verge that selling such items violates the company’s policies prohibiting “among other things, hate against protected identities [and] attempting to incite violence against individuals or groups.”
Merchandise for the Proud Boys gained new attention following President Donald Trump’s refusal to denounce the group and other white supremacist and rightwing militias at the presidential debate last week. Instead, Trump told the group to “stand back and stand by” — a statement that was quickly embraced as an endorsement by members, and plastered onto t-shirts, hoodies, caps, and other items.
Sites quickly began removing items with Trump’s “stand back and stand by” phrase
As reported by Vice last Thursday, many retailers, including Amazon, Teespring, and Ebay, quickly acted to remove products displaying this slogan, but the publication said Etsy “did not follow suit” immediately. Sales of Proud Boy merchandise on Etsy was also flagged by journalist Ryan Broderick in his newsletter Garbage Day, who said the company reached out to him after publication to say they were removing the items.
A spokesperson for Etsy confirmed the same to The Verge, saying in a statement: “Sellers on Etsy agree to follow our policies, which prohibit, among other things, hate against protected identities, attempting to incite violence against individuals or groups. We actively monitor the site and review and remove merchandise that violates our policies.” The spokesperson said that Proud Boys merchandise had long been banned for the site, but that prohibited items do occasionally slip through the company’s filters before being removed.
Searching for the phrase “proud boys” on Etsy now shows mostly merchandise aimed at parents (like a t-shirt with the phrase “Crazy Mother of a Few Dumbass Kids”), or explicitly anti-Proud Boys items, as well as LGBTQ-themed merchandise reclaiming the “proud boys” name. This follows a reaction to the president’s comments on social media, where LGBTQ users on Twitter flooded the “#proudboys” hashtag with pictures of gay men and couples.
Clothing label Fred Perry has also had to distance itself from the group after the brand’s iconic black and yellow tennis shirt and laurel wreath logo were adopted by Proud Boys members. Fred Perry stopped selling this item of clothing in the US as of September 2019, saying it was “incredibly frustrating” to see it associated with the far-right group.
Although the Proud Boys have often tried to present themselves as a mainstream organization, the group has strong ties to the white supremacist movement. The founder of the Proud Boys, Gavin McInnes, has had accounts banned on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, while Facebook has removed a number of groups associated with the Proud Boys.
Update Tuesday October 6th, 10:22AM ET: The story has been updated to make clear that Etsy’s policy of removing Proud Boy’s merchandise is long established, but that some recent items slipped through its filters.