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.
The multi-level 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.
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.
Taya even has a photo on her Facebook page of herself with the company’s founder, Deanne Stidham.
Last week, Bobby did a live LuLaRoe sale, a common way the company’s online retailers sell their products.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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 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.”
Neither LuLaRoe nor the Budenbender’s have returned a request for comment. However, in a message to her private LuLaRoe group, which was shared with BuzzFeed News, Taya mocked the controversy. “Hater’s 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.”
“#StandWithTayaandBobby,” she said.