Apple Joins Retailers Ending Sales of Confederate Flag Items

Games featuring the Confederate flag used in offensive ways are being removed from the App Store in response to the recent Charleston church murders.

Apple iTunes store, Charleston slayings, video games, games, Confederate flag ban, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Apple has joined the growing list of retailers that have been pulling products featuring the Confederate flag from their shelves and online offerings since the June 17 slayings of nine African-Americans by a 21-year-old White man in a racially motivated attack in a Charleston, S.C., church.

In response to the murders, Apple began contacting affected game developers on June 25, advising them that the company was pulling affected games from the iTunes App Store, according to a story by CNNMoney.

"We have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines," Apple said in a statement. "We are not removing apps that display the Confederate flag for educational or historical uses."

An Apple spokesman did not immediately respond to an emailed inquiry from eWEEK about the situation on June 26.

In its communications with affected games developers, Apple cited its existing App Store product guidelines, which allow the rejection of "apps containing references or commentary about a religious, cultural or ethnic group that are defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited or likely to expose the targeted group to harm or violence," according to the CNNMoney report.

Apple also told the affected developers that their apps had been removed from the App Store, but the company said: "We encourage you to review your app concept and incorporate different content and features that are in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines."

The recent sensitivity about the Confederate flag mushroomed after photos surfaced of the suspect in the Charleston church slayings, Dylann Roof, posing with the flag on a Website that included racist messages. Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder in the case and the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the slayings, which occurred during a Bible study session in the church, as a hate crime, according to a June 25 report by Reuters.

A wide range of other retailers have been announcing their own efforts to remove products featuring the Confederate flag from their stores and online offerings in reaction to the Charleston murders, including Amazon, Walmart, Sears and others.

The shootings at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church ignited a heated reaction to the flag and its Civil War symbolism of racism and hate that remains today, particularly after the photos of Roof and the flag were uncovered. In addition to posing with the flag in photos, Roof also allegedly made racist remarks to his victims as he shot them, according to a June 26 Reuters report. The attacks have also inspired a groundswell of support for proposals among a growing number of elected officials to remove Confederate symbols and names from public buildings.

Apple's move to pull products featuring offensive Confederate flag references was perhaps foreshadowed by a Twitter post from the company's CEO, Tim Cook, a few days after the Charleston slayings.

"My thoughts are with the victims' families in SC," Cook tweeted on June 21. "Let us honor their lives by eradicating racism & removing the symbols & words that feed it."