Fashion retailer LulaRoe, known for its buttery soft leggings that often rip like “wet toilet paper,” is in hot water. Again.
Only this time, their troubles don’t stem from treating their retailers poorly, suing mommy bloggers or screwing their consultants out of thousands of dollars in returned merchandise. Their troubles have nothing to do with the billion dollar “endless scheme” class action suit filed against them last year, either.
Rather, LulaRoe owners Mark and DeeAnn Stidham find themselves at the center of a fire storm created by top vendor Robert “Bobby” Budenbender after he published a video of himself openly mocking people with disabilities.
Read that again: Budenbender published a video of himself openly mocking people with Down Syndrome.
In the disgusting video, Budenbender can be heard saying, “Hi, my name is Robert, and I’m special” while making faces to the camera as he continues to speak to his audience during an online sale of LulaRoe clothing:
Once Budenbender realized he was in deep doo-doo for his depraved behavior, he published a hastily filmed “apology” video with his wife, Taya and her sister Anisa, who is a person with Down Syndrome.
In his “public” apology, Budenbender works up some tears and tells his audience that he’s “not perfect” and that he should be forgiven because, in his words, “he always knew he’d have a person with Down Syndrome in his life” and when he met Taya and realized she had a sister with Down Syndrome, his life was complete.
Okay, so, let me get this straight, Bobby: it’s okay for you to mock people with disabilities because you have a person with a disability in your family?
LulaNOPE, Bobby boy. Try again. That excuse is BS.
In fact, admitting that you live with a person with a disability, and you still choose to openly mock them, makes you even more of an asshole.
As expected, the outrage to the both the mocking video and half-assed, self-serving public apology was swift and fierce.
What makes this situation especially disgusting is that Mark and DeeAnn’s granddaughter, Scarlett, was born with Down Syndrome. In fact, to honor their granddaughter, they designed a special dress named in her honor, and pledged to give $1 of every sale to the National Down Syndrome Society.
Now this sounds thoughtful and giving, right? But…
Naturally, the National Down Syndrome Society decried the video in a scathing Facebook post. The statement reads, in part, “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.”
Standing ovation and slow clap, NDSS for standing up to such hurtful and disparaging remarks by a representative of LulaRoe. The NDSS is a non-profit organization, and every dollar counts to help them achieve their goals of promoting the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome. They are so committed to their goals and advocacy for individuals with Down Syndrome that they chose their morals over money.
Now, it would stand to reason that Mark and DeeAnn immediately terminated Budenbender’s contract for such behavior, right?
In a statement on their public Facebook page, the Stidhams sided with Budenbender because they believed his apology is “sincere” and that they’ve received assurances that this will never happen again.
So, let me get this straight, Mark and DeeAnn: you are completely okay with a consultant who publicly mocks people with disabilities representing your brand? You would rather weather the storm with this pond scum of a human than stand up for what’s right and maintain a relationship with the NDSS?
You know, if this were to happen in any other employment environment (unless you are the current president), this man would be fired. That would be the cost of his ‘mistake’, and he’d have time to think about it while he looked for a new job.
But really, why should we expect anything more from this company who has literally built their reputation on screwing hard working women out of thousands of dollars and selling substandard products to millions of customers?
They go even further by pointing fingers at the NDSS stating that they are “unwilling to accept the Retailer’s apology” and explain that they are disappointed that their joint venture will be ending.
So, basically, Mark and DeeAnn are saying that the revenue they would lose from terminating the contract of this problematic individual, who has also been known to publicly use homophobic slurs, is more important than their partnership with the NDSS.
The public outrage (understandably) runs so deep that there’s even a Change.org petition to revoke the Budenbender’s contract with LulaRoe.
However, thus far, it seems that the Stidhams are holding firm in their support. He might be an ableist asshole, but he’s a top-selling ableist asshole.
If you are still supporting this company whether by selling their products, promoting their sales or purchasing their leggings, you are part of the problem, too. There is no excuse for behavior like Budenbender’s and clearly Mark and DeeAnn have zero shame in admitting that their bottom line is more important than being decent humans.
LulaRoe, you are officially cancelled.
*If you would like to show support to the NDSS, and help them recoup some of the costs associate with ending this partnership, go here.*