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People Are Horrified With LuLaRoe For Standing By A Retailer Who Mocked Down Syndrome

The National Down Syndrome Society has severed ties with the retailer after the company refused to fire a seller who mocked people with mental disabilities in a video.

Last updated on January 30, 2018, at 3:21 p.m. ET

Posted on January 29, 2018, at 11:50 a.m. ET

The multilevel marketing leggings company LuLaRoe is under fire once again, this time for standing by a top seller who mocked people with disabilities in a live video, which led the National Down Syndrome Society to sever ties with the brand.

LuLaRoe

The drama began with a video from Bobby Budenbender, a man from Arizona who sells LuLaRoe with his wife, Taya.

The Budenbenders have built a strong online business, with over 20,000 people in just their "VIP" group alone. They are rumored to be among the top 100 sellers in the entire company, according to Facebook groups for former LuLaRoe consultants.
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The Budenbenders have built a strong online business, with over 20,000 people in just their "VIP" group alone.

They are rumored to be among the top 100 sellers in the entire company, according to Facebook groups for former LuLaRoe consultants.

Taya even has a photo on her Facebook page of herself with the company's founder, DeAnne Stidham.

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Last week, Bobby Budenbender did a live LuLaRoe sale, a common way the company's online retailers sell their products.

video-player.buzzfeed.com / Via youtube.com
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In the video, he makes fun of himself by mocking a person with mental disabilities, in a way many people say seems to specifically mock people with Down syndrome.

YouTube

"Hi my name is Robert and I'm special," he said.

The video has since been deleted, but has been reuploaded to YouTube.

People immediately began to call for the couple to apologize, saying it was clear Bobby was mocking those specifically with Down syndrome in the video.

YouTube

After the outrage went viral, the couple released an apology video, which they uploaded but then deleted, featuring Taya's sister, who has Down syndrome.

In the video, Robert says his video was a "mistake" that was taken "out of context" but was also not "who I am" and wasn't "very nice."

He also addressed the members of his private LuLaRoe Facebook page on Friday, saying he made an "error in judgement."

"I have true respect for all people and view them with equality," he said. "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."

The connection to Down syndrome was especially significant because LuLaRoe's founders have a personal connection to the disorder. After their granddaughter, Scarlett, was born with it, LuLaRoe designed a dress in her honor and pledged $1 of each sale to the National Down Syndrome Society.

LuLaRoe

The company used models with Down syndrome in ads for the dress, and was even set to be honored at the NDSS annual gala in March for its contributions to the cause.

Instagram: @lularoe
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So, many were shocked on Friday when Deanne and her husband Mark announced they were standing by the Budenbenders because they believed their apology was "sincere."

Facebook: LuLaRoe

The Stidhams said they didn't think one mistake should mean the couple should lose their business.

"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," they said.

Many people found LuLaRoe's defense of the couple unacceptable, including the NDSS. The group announced on Friday it was ending its relationship with LuLaRoe after the company refused to terminate the contract of the Budenbenders.

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"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.

In a response to an inquiry on its Facebook page, the NDSS said it would no longer be honoring LuLaRoe at its annual gala.

In the statement defending the Budenbenders, the Stidhams acknowledged that they had lost the support of the NDSS over their refusal to cut ties with the couple.

"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," they said.

LuLaRoe's decision to choose one retailer over its partnership with NDSS has horrified many retailers and customers.

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Many see it as the company choosing the revenue from a top seller over their principles.

Just letting everyone know that @LuLaRoe would rather keep a man who mocked people with down syndrome because he’s… https://t.co/ZwHe4tCAcN

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Some retailers and customers who have personal connections to Down syndrome have said the decision has left them heartbroken. One woman, Nicole Palladino-Drake, wrote on Facebook that she runs her LuLaRoe business with her sister and was "appalled" by the video.

"This is heartbreaking that one person could cause this much damage," she wrote. "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."In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the Stidhams reiterated their commitment to "promoting Down syndrome education and outreach." "This is an issue that is very personal, near and dear to our hearts, and important to our family and the entire LuLaRoe community," they said.
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"This is heartbreaking that one person could cause this much damage," she wrote. "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."

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the Stidhams reiterated their commitment to "promoting Down syndrome education and outreach."

"This is an issue that is very personal, near and dear to our hearts, and important to our family and the entire LuLaRoe community," they said.

Despite their apology, in a message to her private LuLaRoe group, which was shared with BuzzFeed News, Taya mocked the controversy. "Haters gonna hate," she said.

"We embrace our imperfections, man boobs and all," she said.She encouraged those in her corner to check back on Monday "to party."Budenbender concluded with a hashtag: "#standwithtayaandbobby."
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"We embrace our imperfections, man boobs and all," she said.

She encouraged those in her corner to check back on Monday "to party."

Budenbender concluded with a hashtag: "#standwithtayaandbobby."

Many of their customers have also posted to the couple's private Facebook group, pledging support.

"I don't know what you said nor do I care," said one person. "You sincerely apologized, hold your head up and keep doing what you do, I've watched y'all a few times you don't seem like you meant to say anything bad so just move on with your life and let the haters hate and let God lead you."
Facebook

"I don't know what you said nor do I care," said one person. "You sincerely apologized, hold your head up and keep doing what you do, I've watched y'all a few times you don't seem like you meant to say anything bad so just move on with your life and let the haters hate and let God lead you."

The couple also isn't letting the controversy affect their business, and continues to sell clothes on their page.

The Budenbenders have not returned a request for comment.
Facebook

The Budenbenders have not returned a request for comment.

UPDATE: LuLaRoe CEO Mark Stidham has announced the Budenbenders have been suspended for 30 days.

In a vlog, Stidham said he chose to forgive Robert because he seemed sorry, not because he is a top seller.

"We do not condone, nor do we accept, nor do we stand behind the behavior that Bobby exhibited," he said. "His behavior was unacceptable, its indefensible, but for me, it's not unforgivable."As for the NDSS, Stidham said LuLaRoe now believes their mission is too narrow for a partnership to make sense."Their mission is very narrowly focused on individuals with Down syndrome," he said. "As a company, our focus is on everybody."He said this was meant to "serve the greater good."
lularoe.com

"We do not condone, nor do we accept, nor do we stand behind the behavior that Bobby exhibited," he said. "His behavior was unacceptable, its indefensible, but for me, it's not unforgivable."

As for the NDSS, Stidham said LuLaRoe now believes their mission is too narrow for a partnership to make sense.

"Their mission is very narrowly focused on individuals with Down syndrome," he said. "As a company, our focus is on everybody."

He said this was meant to "serve the greater good."

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