Like so many other companies, the Lego Group took a stance on racism and police brutality last week. But when the company temporarily halted the digital marketing of more than 30 police-themed toys, their message got a little confusing for the people who sell and buy the beloved bricks.
The Toy Book reported on June 2 that Rakuten Linkshare had sent an email to affiliate marketers on behalf of Lego asking them to remove a list of 30-plus items from their sites and digital marketing materials. “In light of recent of events, LEGO has requested the below products to be removed from sites and any marketing ASAP,” the email reads.
Included in this list were building kits, figurines and accessories related to either police or fire departments and associated buildings or transportation. The list included a Donut Shop Opening kit, which comes with figurines for a police officer named “Duke DeTain” and a “crook,” as well as the Lego Creator White House.
After receiving this email, many sellers were confused by this message, wondering if Lego itself had authorized a discontinuation of marketing and even sales. Some reached out on social media looking for clarification and asking whether this was an official request and what the reasoning was behind it. “Hey @LEGO_Group can you elaborate?” asked Brick Loft on Twitter. “Is it #BlackOutTuesday?” the tweet asked, referring to the social media movement on June 2 that started from a music industry initiative to support black artists and turned into people just posting black squares on Instagram.
Hey @LEGO_Group can you elaborate? Is it #BlackOutTuesday ? We all firmly believe #BlackLivesMattter . For decades #LEGO police & fire rescue have been the very best example how to protect and rescue fellow minifigs and kids playing. What kind of message are you making here?? pic.twitter.com/ZoLg2HlJTj
— Brick Loft (@BrickLoftOrg) June 2, 2020
Word quickly spread on social media about the affiliate email, and the situation escalated into arguments between Lego fans regarding the appropriateness pulling police products off the shelves and stopping related marketing.
On June 3, the company posted an announcement on Instagram, writing, “We will donate $4 million to organizations dedicated to supporting black children and educating all children about racial inequity.” Lego didn’t offer any specifics on organizations to which they’d donate.
Finally, a Lego representative weighed in with a response to The Toy Book to clear up the confusion about the list of police-related toys. “We requested that our affiliate partners refrain from posting promotional Lego content as part of our decision to respect #BlackOutTuesday and pause posting content on our social media channels in response to the tragic events in the US,” the statement said. “We regret any misunderstanding and will ensure that we are clearer about our intentions in the future.”
Lego later added more clarification to its customers, saying all of the sets on the list were available for consumers to buy the entire time — the company was just temporarily pausing digital advertising for these sets “in response to events in the US.”
We’ve seen incorrect reports saying we’ve removed some LEGO sets from sale. To be clear, that is not the case and reports otherwise are false. Our intention was to temporarily pause digital advertising in response to events in the US. We hope this clears things up.
— LEGO (@LEGO_Group) June 4, 2020
The Toy Book reported that Lego had no plans to discontinue or end the sales of any of the sets on the list.