Retailer Urban Outfitters was forced to defend its political policies this week when critics noticed they were offering merchandise with a decidedly anti-Donald Trump bias. Among the company offerings: Shirts that say “IDK Not Trump Tho” and “Vote Trump 20NEVER.” In addition to carrying no apparent merchandise favoring Trump or denigrating Democrats, Urban Outfitters also has several pro-Hillary shirts and hats.
But they say it has nothing to do with the company’s stance on the 2016 election.
“These t-shirts are novelty items, not a political statement,” said a rep for the company in response to a Fox News inquiry. “We stock thousands of novelty products such as t-shirts and mugs with popular and/or humorous statements. We don’t commission these products; they are designed by independent artists who submit them to our merchandise buyers. Our product selection rotates frequently and is largely driven by the demand of our customers.”
There’s quite a bit of wiggle room in that statement, and the rep admits that the company is involved in some sort of selection process. In other words, they chose which items to stock and they chose which items they would decline to sell. And by their own admission, the customers are only part of that decision-making equation.
But hey, it’s a free country. If Urban Outfitters wants to plant a Hillary Clinton flag in the ground, there’s nothing stopping them. We might question how wise it is to offend half of your potential customer base, but that’s the company’s business.
At the same time, we might wonder why companies feel so free these days to jump into the political conversation. This wasn’t always the case. Conservatives used to punish companies economically for their political and cultural errors. Today, companies like Target, Wal-Mart, and Apple have no qualms about supporting liberal causes. They aren’t just selling political merchandise; they are pressuring state governments to oppose the will of the people.
Under the First Amendment, the people who run Urban Outfitters have the right to express whatever opinion they want, either personally or through their business practices. But under that same umbrella, we can send a message right back. Easiest way: stop spending money there.