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LuLaRoe and National Down Syndrome Society End Partnership After Consultant Mocks People With Intellectual Disabilities

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On Friday, the National Down Syndrome Society announced the termination of its partnership with clothing retailer LuLaRoe. The decision follows LuLaRoe’s refusal to cut ties with Robert Budenbender, an independent representative who mocked people with intellectual disabilities during a live sales video.

LuLaRoe’s founders, Mark and DeAnne Stidham, have a granddaughter with Down syndrome, Scarlett. The Stidham’s created the “Scarlett dress” in honor of their granddaughter, which led the company to partner with NDSS. For every Scarlett dress sale, LuLaRoe pledged to donate $1 to NDSS.

In a Facebook Live video on Thursday, which was later reposted to YouTube by a viewer who taped the stream, Budenbender can be seen mocking people with disabilities. “My name is Robert. I’m special. My name is Robert and I’m really special,” Budenbender says.

Budenbender removed the live video and shared an “apology” video — featuring his wife and sister-in-law, who has Down syndrome — later that day. Among the “top comments” on YouTube were remarks from viewers unmoved by Budenbender’s apology, calling his sister-in-law presence exploitative.

Youtube comments expressing dislike over apology video including sister-in-law with Down syndrome

After Budenbender’s apology, LuLaRoe’s co-founders shared a public statement on Facebook regarding the NDSS partnership. While the Stidham’s agreed the actions of their retailer were unacceptable, they would not penalize Budenbender for his actions and would be ending the NDSS partnership instead.

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.

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

NDSS also shared a public statement announcing the termination of its partnership with LuLaRoe.

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.

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

Since Friday, the Down syndrome community has expressed its disappointment in LuLaRoe, with many supporting NDSS’ decision to terminate the partnership.

The controversy has even led some consultants to terminate their relationship with the company.

The Mighty reached out to LuLaRoe for comment and has yet to hear back.

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Originally published: January 29, 2018
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