LuLaRoe, the multilevel marking women’s clothing company, is facing backlash from the internet and has lost its ties with the National Down Syndrome Society after it stood by a top seller who in a live video appeared to make fun of people with disabilities.
The seller, Bobby Budenbender from Arizona, posted a live video sale of LuLaRoe products last week, BuzzFeed News reported Monday. In it, Budenbender appears to imitate a person with disabilities, and many people say he’s specifically mocking people with Down syndrome.
“Hi my name is Robert and I’m special,” he said in the now-deleted video which has been re-uploaded to YouTube.
According to BuzzFeed News, people immediately demanded an apology from Budenbender and his wife, Taya. The National Down Syndrome Society also threatened to end its relationship with LaLaRoe did not terminate its contract with the Budenbenders.
The couple is reportedly rumored to be among the top 100 sellers for the online company. After facing viral criticism, the couple released an apology video featuring Taya’s sister, who has Down syndrome. The apology video has also been deleted.
In the apology, Robert Budenbender reportedly said his original video was a “mistake” that was taken “out of context.”
“I have true respect for all people and view them with equality,” he said, according to BuzzFeed News. “I know I am flawed at times, and I have been humbled to take inventory on how I can represent myself online, as the man I really am inside.”
LuLaRoe co-founders Mark and DeAnne Stidham—who have a granddaughter with Down syndrome—said in a Facebook post Friday that they believed Budenbender’s apology was “sincere” and that because they were standing by the retailer, LaLaRoe would be severing ties with the National Down Syndrome Society.
Statement by Mark and DeAnne Stidham, co-founders, LuLaRoe: We are deeply saddened and disappointed to announce our…Posted by LuLaRoe on Friday, January 26, 2018
“We do not believe the most productive response to [Robert’s] actions, which he has fully apologized for, is to close his business and threaten his ability to provide for his family,” the founders said in their post.
In a responding Facebook post, the National Down Syndrome Society confirmed it would cutting ties with LuLaRoe.
“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,” it said.
A Message from The National Down Syndrome Society Chairman of the Board and President and CEO:Within the last 24…Posted by National Down Syndrome Society on Friday, January 26, 2018
While the Budenbenders have continued selling LuLaRoe products via Facebook with support from their “VIP” customers, other retailers and customers of the company have denounced its decision.
“For [LaLaRoe] to be more concerned about THEIR money and this guy instead of their granddaughter and the thousands of other people in this company,” customer Jessica Petty Ray wrote in a Facebook post. “I’m not going to get rid of my wardrobe but I will not be buying anything else and I know so many other moms that are doing the same thing.”
H/T BuzzFeed News