Many are unsure if Kohl’s is selling Black Lives Matter merchandise after the retail chain announced a partnership with the Black-owned business Cream City Print Lounge. Although the company is partnering with the Milwaukee-based business to “create a line of tees for the whole family to support racial equality,” none of the messaging on the merchandise or in the press release mentions Black Lives Matter or BLM.
Supporting anti-racism and promoting Black businesses does not necessarily mean that a company is investing or directly involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. However, as Snopes pointed out, “Some of the rhetoric and symbolism in those T-shirts overlapped with the rhetoric and symbolism prevalent within the Black Lives Matter movement.”
A spokesperson for Kohl’s confirmed to Heavy in an emailed statement that the collection is not associated with the Black Lives Matter movement:
We are excited to bring a selection of equity tees to select Kohl’s stores and Kohls.com at the end of September to celebrate coming together in support of racial equality. We partnered with locally-owned Cream City Print Lounge, a Black-owned business in Milwaukee, to create some of the shirts. The collection is not affiliated with the Black Lives Matter organization, the benefiting organization of this collection is the National Urban League. As part of this collection, Kohl’s is donating $100,000 to the National Urban League which strengthens economic empowerment, equity and civil rights for underserved urban communities.
The company added that they have supported other customers and communities in the past and pointed to its Pride graphic t-shirts and “a collection celebrating Hispanic Heritage.” The statement continues, “When we celebrate diverse people, customers and communities, including Black, Hispanic and historically underrepresented communities, it’s not a political statement, but rather a purposeful affirmation of every individual and family we serve. Kohl’s does not support or endorse political parties, candidates or organizations.”
The Company Made the Partnership Announcement on September 7 & Pledged $100,000 to The National Urban League, & the Viral BLM Claim Originated Soon After
Kohl’s first announced its partnership with the Milwaukee-area Cream City Print Lounge in early September, with the line of tees becoming available on September 21. The retail company also announced a donation to The National Urban League.
It’s unclear where the claim about the BLM merchandise first originated, but an article was published by Shore News Network on September 9, a couple of days after Kohl’s announcement, titled “Kohl’s Stores Announce New Line of Black Lives Matter Clothing.” That article pointed to an announcement made by Kohl’s in August in which the company pledged $1 million to the Milwaukee community through five non-profit organizations.
In that press release, Michelle Gass, Kohl’s chief executive officer, said:
At a time when there is a clear call to action to do more to address inequities for People of Color, Kohl’s is committed to actions that support long-term sustainable progress in supporting these organizations. We look forward to sharing more of our plans and actions in the future to enhance diversity and inclusivity in our workplace, in our business and in the communities we serve.
There was no mention of the Black Lives Matter movement in the press release, however, and the five organizations are The Milwaukee Urban League, Employ Milwaukee, Acts Housing, Safe & Sound and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.
The claim that Kohl’s is selling Black Lives Matter merchandise was amplified by Elizabeth Klave, a Twitter user who posted on September 16: “I just called Kohl’s and they confirmed that they will be selling BLM merchandise. I asked them if they were going to sell back the blue and they said no not at this time. This is a shame and they will no longer have me as a customer.” That tweet has been liked over 25,000 times and retweeted over 16,000 times.
In a subsequent tweet, the user added: “I want to assure everyone that the statement made about Kohl’s is true. I called and spoke to two people in the corporate office. They will be selling BLM merchandise beginning the 21st of this month. #boycottkohls.”
Kohl’s Facebook Announcement of the Partnership Caused a Mixed Reaction
The Facebook announcement of the collaboration between Kohl’s and Cream City Print Lounge received a mixed reaction from the company’s followers. The post itself received about three thousand likes, three thousand love reactions and over 4 thousand angry reactions. It received over 17 thousand comments.
One user wrote, “Well kohls since you are supporting a terrorist group I will no longer shop there. Spent thousands of dollars there before. No more.” Another said, “Kohl’s you’re basically saying you support all the looting and rioting going on by this group. Bad move on your part.” One post reads: “I just cut my Kohls card up! See you in bankruptcy.”
Others supported the move, with one user writing, “I love it! Great job, Kohl’s!!” Another added, “I absolutely Love this T-shirt!!!” One user wrote: “Well done Kohl’s! I will definitely be supporting.” One person said: “Loyal customer almost all my life and all these salty comments are ensuring I buy what is in my online cart right now. Appreciate the partnership with a black-owned business and cannot wait to see the line. #blacklivesmatter.”