Originally published on June 2, 2020. Updated with clarification statement from LEGO June 3, 3:45 p.m. Last updated June 4, 12:13 p.m.
The tragic death of George Floyd while being restrained by police in Minneapolis sparked major protests all over the country, and today we’re seeing the first impact in the toy department.
The Toy Book has received a copy of an email sent to affiliate marketers by Rakuten Linkshare on behalf of the LEGO Group. The email requests removal of product listings and features for more than 30 LEGO building sets, Minifigures, and accessories that include representation of police officers, firefighters, criminals, emergency vehicles, and buildings. Sets include the LEGO City Police Station, Fire Station, Police Dog Unit, Patrol Car, Fire Plane, Mobile Command Center, Police Highway Arrest, and many more. Even the LEGO City Donut Shop Opening set — which includes Police Officer “Duke DeTain” and “Crook” Minifigures — roleplay items including a Police Handcuffs & Badge Set, and the adult builder LEGO Creator version of The White House made the removal list.
At press time these sets are still showing up on the LEGO website and many are still in stock and for sale. We have reached out to the LEGO Group for comment and will update this story accordingly.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for the LEGO Group responded to our request for comment with the following statement:
“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. We regret any misunderstanding and will ensure that we are clearer about our intentions in the future.”
Confusion Among Affiliates, LEGO Fans
Throughout the day numerous LEGO-related fansites received the email prompting confused social chatter as to what sort of statement was being made and who called for the email to be sent out. Several recipients of the email took to twitter with questions about the unclear messaging.
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
LEGO is the ideal world. That world will be crushed once a kid uses the minifigures and re-enacts what they are seeing on TV. It’s a sad world. https://t.co/AocXYk7aAq
— Matt's Brick Gallery (@mbrickgallery) June 2, 2020
LEGO sent an email asking that police/fire/whitehouse (and donut shop) sets no longer be marketed effective immediately. pic.twitter.com/ydFE7dGTGA
— Stitch Kingdom has BUM WORMS (@stitchkingdom) June 2, 2020
The products are still for sale, they just don't want them advertised.
Challenging times. pic.twitter.com/sxdjyUXZmJ
— Michael Clark (@miamimikeclark) June 3, 2020
Just had an affiliate email asking for certain LEGO sets not to be advertised. They all seem to be related to emergency services – anyone have any idea what's happening?
— Mr. What's-It-Meant-To-Be (@silentmodetv) June 2, 2020
LEGO Pledges Support to the Black Community
LEGO published a message on its social platforms at 12:24 p.m. ET on June 3. LEGO says that it “will donate $4 million to organizations dedicated to supporting black children and educating all children about racial equality.”
— LEGO (@LEGO_Group) June 3, 2020
Looting at the LEGO Store in NYC
The LEGO Store on Fifth Ave. in the Flatiron District of New York City was looted on June 1 alongside many other businesses as rioters put a damper on the peaceful protests taking place elsewhere in the city and around the world. Photographs of the destruction have since surfaced on Instagram showing that the popular store was stripped back to the bare shelves and a few permanent display pieces. A video published to Facebook by Beyond the Brick shows the aftermath and board-up process taking place.
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 LEGO City theme has traditionally been one of LEGO’s bestselling categories, and it’s long-been anchored by law enforcement. Additionally, police have been at the center of LEGO storytelling beyond toys and across games and animation for years.
There are no plans to discontinue these sets or to pull any product from shelves despite affiliates being asked not to actively market them. The company took to social networks to post an additional statement of clarification for consumers.