The studio behind The Dukes of Hazzard has become the latest corporate giant to get out of the Confederate flag business. Vulture has learned exclusively that Warner Bros.’ consumer licensing division — which for decades has licensed images of the Duke brothers’ iconic General Lee car for use on everything from T-shirts and model cars to lunch boxes and kids’ underwear — has opted to stop sanctioning the manufacturing of any products featuring the stars and bars. “Warner Bros. Consumer Products has one licensee producing die-cast replicas and vehicle model kits featuring the General Lee with the Confederate flag on its roof — as it was seen in the TV series,” a spokesman for the company said via email. “We have elected to cease the licensing of these product categories.” Translation: While you’ll still be able to buy a T-shirt featuring the General Lee — minus any visible sign of the flag — you won’t be able to buy any new toy cars or model kits with the car, period. The decision will only impact one company, Round 2, an Indiana-based model company that features a flagless General Lee on the home page of its website, touting it as “Television’s Most Famous Car.”
The decision to drop the General Lee toy car product category comes barely 24 hours after South Carolina state officials announced a push to remove the stars and bars from the grounds of the state capitol. And today, eBay, Walmart, and Sears all said they would stop selling merchandise with the offensive symbol — a move that may or may not include the existing General Lee merchandise. The move also seems to represent a change in thinking for Warner Bros. Consumer Products. Three years ago, during the summer of 2012, some fans of the hugely popular late-’70s/early ’80s CBS series were in a tizzy because of rumors flying around the internet that WBCP had decided to remove the flag from the General Lee, a souped-up 1969 Dodge Charger that was as much a star of the show as actors Tom Wopat, John Schneider, and Catherine Bach. Ben Jones, a former congressman who also played Cooter on Dukes, fanned the flames of outrage, putting out a press release slamming the “P.C. idiocy” of Hollywood and those who wanted the flag taken off the fictional car. Online petitions went up to get Warner to change its mind; news outlets dutifully reported the fan angst.
But it turned out that WBCP had never planned to make any changes to the General Lee merchandise. “We were not and are not planning to change the design of the General Lee on merchandise,” the studio said via a statement published by the New York Times. As a result, collectors were still able to buy all manner of General Lee models and die-cast cars. Round 2, for example, still sells a version of the General Lee where the Confederate flag is very prominent on Amazon. It lists more models — some as recent as 2014 — on its own website. Finally, while WBCP and its licensees will no longer be selling any products that display the Confederate flag, the original General Lee will still be visible in one place: on reruns of Dukes, which — for now — air regularly on CMT and are sold online at streaming sales sites such as Amazon. You can bet Amazon will soon choose a different bit of key art for Dukes, however, than the one currently used to sell the show.