LuLaRoe, a multi-marketing women’s clothing company known for their ultra-soft and comfortable apparel, is facing a social media firestorm and extreme criticism after siding with a man, Bobby Budenbender, who was seen mocking people with special needs during a live-streamed sale.
After the man published a remorseful video, the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) stated that they were not willing to accept his apology and would end their relationship with the clothier if his contract wouldn’t be terminated.
LuLaRoe took the side of Budenbender, who works alongside his wife Taya Budenbender, and accepted his apology, leaving thousands outraged and some who once stood by and sold for the company leaving because of the news.
“This video is unacceptable and further perpetuates the stigmas we work to fight and end each and every day at NDSS,” the society wrote on their Facebook page. The full statement reads:
Within the last 24 hours, it has come to the attention of the National Down Syndrome Society that an online video by a LuLaRoe independent retailer, which mocks a person with a disability, was posted on YouTube. This video is unacceptable and further perpetuates the stigmas we work to fight and end each and every day at NDSS.
While we appreciate the apology from this individual and the previous support from LuLaRoe, we must uphold our mission statement, and end our partnership and any further programming with LuLaRoe immediately.
As the leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome, we envision a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations and become valued members of welcoming communities.
We will continue advocating for all individuals with Down syndrome, the Down syndrome community and living our vital mission statement each and every single day.
Gordon Spoor, Chairman of the Board
Sara Hart Weir, President and CEO
LuLaRoe stood by their decision, and the company’s co-founders, Mark and DeAnne Stidham, released the following statement:
We are deeply saddened and disappointed to announce our decision to end our relationship with the National Down Syndrome Society. Our company and the Independent Fashion Retailers have embraced the NDSS and its important work, and have enthusiastically supported the organization’s efforts over the past year.
Regrettably, a LuLaRoe Independent Fashion Retailer exhibited unacceptable and insensitive behavior during a live sale, which understandably offended viewers as well as everyone at LuLaRoe. His bad judgment in no way represents the beliefs and character of LuLaRoe or Independent Fashion Retailers.
Immediately after his sale, the Retailer posted an apology. He also reached out to NDSS and said he and his wife have agreed to use the incident as a learning experience and expressed his intention to focus his business on support for the organization and its cause.
After speaking with the Retailer at great length, we believe his apology is sincere and accepted his assurance that this type of behavior would never happen again. We are also using this unfortunate incident as an opportunity to redouble our sensitivity and tolerance training efforts and policies for Independent Fashion Retailers.
Unfortunately, NDSS leadership is unwilling to accept the Retailer’s apology and has informed us that unless we terminate his contract with LuLaRoe, the organization will no longer associate with us. We do not believe the most productive response to his actions, which he has fully apologized for, is to close his business and threaten his ability to provide for his family.
This fundamental difference in how we view education and awareness initiatives – joined with our commitment to not fight intolerance with eradication – ultimately contributed to our decision to end this relationship. The culture of LuLaRoe and the opportunity to continue to improve lives and strengthen communities through strong principles of acceptance and education will remain among our highest priorities.
This incident will not lessen our commitment to playing a positive role in raising awareness and contributing to Down Syndrome causes. We wish the NDSS continued success.
You can watch the apology video, which many are saying caused even more damage, of the man who caused the stir below:
The decision led to some ending ties with the company. Emily Young, a current LuLaRoe consultant, told Heavy that the company’s response has her and other sellers “angry and saddened.”
“I am a current consultant with LuLaRoe and I think I speak for other consultants on my team that we are angry and saddened by the whole scenario,” Young stated. “The situation is weighing heavily on all of us. Many of us have worked hard to build relationships with our customers, relationships that are largely based on our morals and ethics. Despite our own opinions on this situation, we will lose trust with customers based on the decisions made by our corporate offices. It is an unfortunate situation, and I hope that LuLaRoe will reevaluate their decision and stay true to their mission statement.”
Kelly Robson expressed that she doesn’t believe LuLaRoe would have sided with the man if he wasn’t a “top money maker.”
“This week has been a hard week for special needs,” Robson posted to Facebook. She continued:
A very well known Lularoe consultant made a mockery of those with disabilities. And further made a mockery of those that stood up against his actions in his apology.
NDSS had named Lularoe as their guest of honor for their upcoming Gala. And knowing how poorly this could reflect on them. I sent them the videos. The backstory of Lularoe’s continued unfairness in regard to carrying out the contracts of consultants. The backstory of their mistreatment of a woman who was deaf and trying to shop. Deanne’s own words calling sensory kids ‘weird.’
I sent them not to be a hero. Not to take down Lularoe. But to urge them to use their BIG VOICE. To urge them to DO BETTER. To put people before money.
NDSS urged Lularoe to do the right thing. To terminate is contract. To take a strong stand against such treatment.
And Lularoe failed in a huge way. Standing behind the consultants behavior over the lives of every single differently abled person. Standing behind one consultant over the reputations and sustainability of every single one of their other consultants. They stood behind him because he is a top money maker. If he had been a small consultant I have no doubt they would have let go with a quickness.
They have proven time and again if you make them money you are untouchable, your contract is safe in spite of your behavior.
TODAY I STAND and say this is not ok.
“Wow!,” Nicole Palladino-Drake wrote in reply to NDSS’ Facebook post. “I’m appalled that someone would do that, but not even sure what to say. My sister who is Down Syndrome is the owner and my partner in this business. This is heartbreaking that one person could cause this much damage. Sadly Lularoe has hurt us many other ways in the past year so this is just the icing on the cake for us and her business.”
Many have taken to Twitter to express their outrage towards the company.
“Its official,” @LLRChristyP tweeted. “I will not stand behind a company with no moral compass #Lularoe #istandwithNDSS #NDSS”
One woman tweeted the above video of her son who has Down syndrome. She asked him, “What do we do when people discriminate?,” to which he responded “No!”
“#istandwithNDSS Sadly,” @fabricdraton tweeted. “#LuLaRoe decided to support a profitable consultant who mocked the #disabled and risk their dealings with NDSS. #NDSS very correctly stood by their mission. This is not the 1st time LuLaRoe has backed #racism and #discrimination over ethics. #politics”
A petition has been created on Change.org to revoke the contract of the offending party. You may sign by clicking here.
Read on for further coverage of Taya and Bobby Budenbender: