TOMS Founder Explains Focus On The Family Appearance

BlakeTOMS Blake Mycoskie, founder of the wildly popular TOMS Shoes, came under scrutiny late this week, when anti-gay group Focus on the Family announced that he had spoken at one of their events.

Following a barrage of criticism, Mycoskie has issued a statement insisting that he does not approve of the organization's politics and feels they misrepresented his appearance as a partnership.

Via Change.org:

Had I known the full extent of Focus on the Family’s beliefs, I would not have accepted the invitation to speak at their event. It was an oversight on my part and the company’s part and one we regret. In the last 18 months we have presented at over 70 different engagements and we do our best to make sure we choose our engagements wisely, on this one we chose poorly.

Furthermore, contrary to what has been reported, Focus on the Family is not a TOMS giving partner.

So there is no misunderstanding created by this mistake, let me clearly state that both TOMS, and I as the founder, are passionate believers in equal human and civil rights for all. That belief is a core value of the company and of which we are most proud.

This means, of course, that readers can still rock their TOMS without feeling like sell-outs.

Comments

  1. says

    How very nice – well said and you have to hand the man and the organization a round of applause for stepping forward so quickly. My appreciation for TOMS grows stronger.

  2. Bryan says

    Talk is cheap, and to apologize without making amends is even cheaper. I don’t care what you meant to do; I care about your irresponsible behavior.

  3. Brad says

    Um, Mr. Mycoskie, unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 20 years, it rather stretches the imagination to think you wouldn’t know what Focus on the Family was all about. If you didn’t know then your employees should have by vetting the organization. I agree with Bryan. Talk is cheap. You’ve already done the damage. You need to come up with something better than “Oops, I didn’t know what they were about!” At worst you’re a liar, at best the people who work for you that set this up are seriously stupid.

  4. robertmalcolm says

    While I appreciate his words it’s telling to me that no one at TOMS knew anything (or took the time to find out) about Focus on the Family’s divisive politics previous to his speaking engagement.

    For a company which prides themselves on their humanitarian work I’m honestly surprised no one there knew about Focus on the Family — or did they? Hopefully they learn from this mistake.

    robert

  5. mstrozfckslv says

    how could they not know that focus on the family is anti-women, anti-choice, anti-gay etc

    they have only been around espousing such for decades now

    BS on his apology, he is sorry they got busted for it not doing it

  6. Joe H says

    The cornerstone of Focus on Family’s existence is anti-gay extremism. I’m with Brad — major idiocy at work here, or worse. The man has not made amends; he did not even mention the LGBT community in his “aopology” and instead went with the “equal rights for all” dodge. And he had to be called out, first. Good reasons to avoid this product. You can tell them what you think here: http://www.toms.com/contacts/ .

  7. Codswallop says

    It does sort of strain credibility that someone could deal with FOTF and NOT know that homophobia is a major part of who they are, if not their primary purpose. If you don’t know it, a minute on Google will fill you in.

    “What? You mean the Aryan Nation isn’t just a club for blonds?!”

  8. my2cents says

    appropriate next steps would be to post a video of his speech / presentation. following that, his organization need to recruit a more conscious ‘booker’. or someone who is familiar with the google.

  9. The Iron Orchard says

    This reeks of BS! The name of the organization is Focus On The Family…there’s clue number one, a quick goggle search could have come up with loads of info, total fail. He came out so quickly because it got out, and he knows gay men buy lots more shoes then most straight men. EPIC FAIL! Don’t believe a word of it!

  10. Hue-Man says

    I’ll be charitable and say this is “wilful negligence” – the corp wouldn’t have needed to hire a private investigator to do basic due diligence; their message of hate is broadcast with bullhorns. If they can agree to be associated with this hate group, what’s to prevent them from incompetently agreeing to speak at the next KKK rally or going to Uganda to support Kill the Gays? FAIL

  11. Mark (different one) says

    Looks like the name fooled whoever was responsible for setting this up. Of course, that’s exactly why these anti-gay organizations pick those names. Focus on the Family, American Family Association, etc., sound pleasant to those that aren’t aware.

  12. Mark says

    yeah, sorry, not buying it, literally or figuratively. First, if this guy is really as socially conscious as he wants to make us think, (and yes the idea of shoes for kids is a great one), he should know who the progressive vs. regressive groups are. God knows I do and I’m not running a business for chrissakes. Second, put your money where your mouth is. Make a contribution (it doesn’t have to be financial) to a GLBT youth organization, or women’s group, or something. Until then, you lost a customer and I won’t be speaking well of your product.

  13. says

    ‘Oh, Diogenes!
    Find a man who’s honest!
    Oh, Diogenes!
    Wrap him up for me
    Oh, Diogenes!
    Find a man who’s stolid-solid
    Hook that fish if he’s in the sea
    Hunt him! Trail him!
    Catch him! Nail him!
    If he is free
    Have you got your stick?
    Have you got your lantern?
    Can you do the trick
    And produce him, please!
    Catch that fellow!
    Ring that bell,
    Oh,
    Oh!
    Oh, Diogenes!”

  14. Wayne in San Diego says

    Seriously guys? The guy apologized without any ‘qualifiers’ and said they screwed up. If I wasn’t gay, I’d have no clue who the f’n FOF was.We were already pissed at him for doing it, now he has alienated the conservative crowd by apologizing for it. At best he breaks even and some people will never forgive him. I’d prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt

  15. Francis says

    I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on an oversight of who they were associating with in terms of FOF. And the apology does seem contrite. With that said, that shows complete irresponsibility and ignorance to not know the history of the organizations you allow speak at your events. So on that alone, the criticism TOMS gets is legitimate.

    With that said, I agree that a contribution to a group these bigots speak ill off would be a good way to make amends.

  16. adam says

    I find it difficult to believe that Blake Mycoskie would not know about Focus On The Family’s virulent anti-gay agenda. Hello, were have you been, Blake? Surely you have a computer – you only need to do a Google search to see what this organization is all about.

    The whole thing has a “caught red-handed” look about it. Looks like I’ll have re-consider any future TOMS shoes purchases.

  17. Patrick says

    And you can’t tell me that all of the hoops the company would jump through to make sure a presenting engagement went off without a hitch, all the people who’s time and energy and blood sweat and tears went into making it happen, plus his own “assured” company stance of equality and inclusion for all, that no one, at any point, thought to even Google Focus on the Family to find out about the organization their company would be speaking for.

    Give me a break. Corporations, even small ones, don’t work that way. You always know the people you are presenting to. Otherwise, how are you going to give them what they want?

    Not that I purchase the TOM’s products anyway, but I certainly won’t be in the future.

  18. TDSE says

    To be perfectly fair, if you were to ask the people in my life, only about ten percent would know who FOTF is. And that’s with people ranging from nie to eighty living all across the US and who have various political and religious views. Not saying he should not have known, but it’s really not commonly held knowledge. Hell, you wouldn’t believe how many peole don’t know who NOM is!

  19. Ian says

    1) Never even heard of TOMS shoes until tonight. Thought Toms was toothpaste.

    2) This TOMS guy is full of BS. I did a 20 second Google search and it clearly reveals as search result #3 “Why Focus On The Family is of the Devil: A Christian perspective”

  20. walter says

    dumb question. how do you go to speak to a group and not know what they are about? do he accept just any speaking engagement? before most public people speak to a group they do their research.

  21. Dickster says

    Guys, when FOF approaches a business to ‘work with’ or ‘partner’ with them, they don’t say “We represent the rabid anti-homo lobby”.

    They sugar coat their message – it’s about keeping families together, its about the kids, its all about apple pie and good things. That’s why they’re successful — they’re ‘safe’ — how can it be a bad choice to be ‘pro-family’?

    You have to do some deep digging and read between he lines to learn pro-family = anti-gay.

    We’re attuned to the code words the rabid right uses. Most folks aren’t. It’s not hard to be inadvertently caught up in the FOF/AFA nonsense.

    Unless an business is ideologically bent towards the religious right there’s no upside for them to work with the haters. I accept that it’s possible to naively become involved with these groups. When your eyes are opened and you realize your error, sincerely apologize and distance yourself from the H8, perhaps we could agree a lesson has been learned and the H8ters have been discredited.

    A lot of good people who are queer allies have been hoodwinked by these groups. That’s their M.O.

  22. mattgmd says

    It is quite possible that Mycoskie was sincerely unaware of the nefarious agenda of Focus on the Family. The name of the group certainly sounds “wholesome” enough, which certainly allows them much latitude in pushing their anti-GLBT agenda. I’m cutting Mycoskie some slack because not everyone is as politically astute as those of us for whom FocusFamily is striving to deny reasonable and equal rights.

  23. Codswallop says

    Oh c’mon. It’s 2011 and “Family” has been a code word since Reagan was in office. If someone asked you to speak in front of their group and you weren’t familiar with them, especially as the representative of a business, wouldn’t you at least look them up? And the criticism of FOTF is NOT hidden, it’s right up front on any search, on their Wikipedia page, very easy to find.

    “The KKK? That’s like a Fraternity, right?”

  24. Judy Was A Punk says

    You dont need to do any “deep digging” to know what Focus On The Family is about. Thats a straight up lie. This Mycoskie guy is full of ca-ca. And those SHOES! Hideous! I wouldnt be caught wearing those tacky shoes at a cockfight.

  25. Bryan says

    Everyone knows what FoF is about, and it ain’t a day in the park. How a biz exec can schedule an event without due diligence, and then, actually show up for the talk…???!!! I’m not buying it. Did he collect a fee or a commitment from his appearance? Would he have apologized had he not been called out? The real way to make amends is to have those shoes rain down on populations that are connected with the lgbt communities in every part of the globe.

  26. Todd says

    Mycoskie attends a Southern Baptist church in LA, and clearly runs in Christian fundamentalist circles. So, I don’t believe his backtracking.

    Anyway, buy some espadrilles if you care about gay rights and want casual slip-ons.

  27. Pitt90 says

    I appreciate his mea culpa and will cut him some slack, but anyone who ever watches a news show, reads a magazine, or newspaper even a few times a year has an amazingly likely time of knowing who Focus on the Family is … they make sure of that. I have trouble buying the “oops, didn’t know they were bastiches” excuse …

  28. Roger Ramjet says

    Ahhh…Citizens United at work. Don’t have to worry about publically supporting the homicidal maniacs you personally agree with. Who cares what the rest of your peon work force thinks. Hey, some of them could be LGBT too. But they can go pound dirt. Right TOMS?

    Got to love it when Fascism flames it’s historical christian tinder…someone always gets caught in the fire. This era it’s us LGBTs …again. Christians just love a good whimilation. So much sin…so little time!

  29. Abel says

    Guys, bear in mind that the average straight American who isn’t a religious nut probably has NOT heard of Focus on the Family. They might innocently assume that Focus on the Family actually focused on families rather than gay-bashing. Just as people not really acquainted with NOM might wrongly assume they’re actually concerned with marriage and families instead of gay-bashing. I’m very willing to give TOMS the benefit of the doubt.

  30. Nate says

    It’s all about money… people compromise their principles for money and then say how bad they feel about about it when it becomes an issue. Just like when Elton John performed at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding reception. He knew Rush was a big time bigot but there was money to be had so that made it okay.

  31. wyocwboy62 says

    Most straight people that don’t follow religion don’t have a clue what FOF does or their philosophy. I have spoken to many people that are clueless and that’s why so many anti-gay laws and constitutional amendments get added because they think that FOF is a non-x-tian organization…

  32. RT says

    This guy is a LIAR. He initially might not have realized what FOTF stood for but he knew after arriving to speak at their event and he sure as hell knows now. I went through the whole ordering process and just before I was asked to put in my cc number the screen asks for coupon code or gift card number. I put in FOCUS and received a $5 discount. Strike another brand I will never wear again.

    http://www.focusonlinecommunities.com/blogs/Finding_Home/2011/06/28/toms-shoes-discount

  33. Patrick says

    If you just go to the FOF website, and click on the first options given (Marriage, the God’s Design for Marriage, the Divine Order to Marriage), then you are linked to an article that ends with this:

    “Beloved, there is a profound and awesome reason for the way God ordered the creation of man—one that is commented on throughout Scripture, and one that we must observe if we are to find the fulfillment of our very being as humans. It is ordered as the union of a man and a woman in marriage—heterosexual and monogamous—an order that Jesus unambiguously reaffirmed in Matthew.”

    Its not rocket science to navigate their site. You only have to click the FIRST LINKS on each page, and you are directed to this article, which clearly states the FOF position on marriage equality (or lack thereof).

    Come on, guys. TOM’s does some great work by donating shoes to kids who are without, but if your organization is that focused on humanitarianism, helping the less fortunate, and doing good in the world, then, how could a hate group like FOF’s ridiculous anti-gay rhetoric slip through your Google filters?

    I don’t buy it, and neither should you.

  34. The Iron Orchard says

    @IMHO I went to the link you provided which is a blog written by Mycoskie, and it’s amazing in the comments section how he or the person who writes the blog for him responds personally to peoples commenst, but totally skips responding to the comments asking why he is affiliating with FotF. There are comments about what a great job he is doing written on the same day as the inquires about FotF, and they/he just responds to the posta about how great he is. Even when a writer from Rolling Stone asks for an expalination he skips responding to it. As you said this was 2 weeks before, so how could he not know or anyone from his organization not have looked into it when people were commenting on the blog two weeks prior? This is all I need to know to know he’s just trying to save his ass after this story went wide.

  35. TomJ says

    Ummm, I’m not getteing ANY “explanation” as the Towlroad article erroneously titles. “Explanation of appearance?” Where is the explanation?

    Also, if, as another blog states, this guy attends a Southern Baptist Church, (supposedly he does) how could he NOT know if FoF’s unfortunate beliefs? Is he an ex-gay? A closet case? He’s in fashion, so there are gay people all around him all the time. I just don’t buy his “oops” apology.

    And that hair! You look like a bad hair day in NYC humidity. I’m itchy all over just looking at your pic. For God’s sake man, get it cut or something!

  36. djork says

    Who did he think he was going to address? Why didn’t he do a little research before he committed. What did he say at the event? This guy–and his company–are full of crap.

  37. Tom says

    I feel that the quick forgiveness he has received seems more readily offered when compared to other similar stories about black athletes who have used ‘gay’ in a negative context. If the man wasn’t white, would so many people accept his apology?

  38. downtownla says

    I do a lot of speaking engagements, but I don’t always check everything about the sponsors. So, I cut him slack on that. However, I think the skipping-over-commenting on the website shows that he was aware that his appearance would bring up some issues. Once he saw that (or if it’s his intern or assistant that monitors his blog), then they should have investigated. I think Mycoskie needs to further come out and discuss his view on both choice and LGBT issues.

  39. Codswallop says

    “I feel that the quick forgiveness he has received seems more readily offered when compared to other similar stories about black athletes who have used ‘gay’ in a negative context. If the man wasn’t white, would so many people accept his apology?”

    Oh for god’s sake don’t drag out THAT old canard again! Have even read the comments here or elsewhere? The vast majority of them are variations of “It’s BS that Blake and his company didn’t know who FotF is! He’s just backtracking because he got caught and didn’t expect the backlash.” That hardly constitutes ‘forgiveness’ in my book.

    If anything, athletes of any race are given MORE of a pass because, frankly, we expect athletes to be homophobic, echoes of the Jock v Homo battles many of us have in our own pasts. When an athlete steps up as a committed straight ally they’re immediately lionized by the gay community because it’s still unexpected.

  40. EdA says

    First, I’ve heard of Tom’s of Maine and when I was a kid, we got some shoes from Thom McAn and I know some of the work of the late Tom of Finland, but until seeing this article I had never heard of the “wildly popular TOMS shoes.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_of_Finland

    In any event, I too am willing to cut this guy some slack, SOME slack, assuming that he’s straight, even though given his stated values one would assume that he does follow SOME progressive or non-compromised media and even the “mainstream” media did report extensively on Focus on the Family’s efforts to “rehabilitate” Ted Haggard.

    But after all, to people who aren’t that tuned in to our issues, “Focus on the Family” may seem like a legitimate organization and it doesn’t (yet) appear on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of active hate groups:

    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/ideology/anti-gay/active_hate_groups

  41. ThomTT says

    TOMS shoes are simply the flavor of the day. Speaking to 70 groups without proper vetting simply sounds like a publicity tour. Let it pass, a year or so from now people won’t be buying their shoes anyway.

  42. my2cents says

    ultimately, this situation might be an unfortunate outcome of being overbooked and overextended. TOMS also just launched a sunglass one-for-one effort. in case you’re curious, this cause is directed at people who suffer from cataracts as a result of sun exposure.

    http://www.toms.com/eyewear/

    and just in case you’re unfamiliar with the TOMS one-for-one shoe mission: to help prevent illness and early death from exposure to parasites through the feet.

    TOMS been taken to task over this. check out
    http://www.elephantjournal.comtoms

    a big challenge here, is that TOMS efforts are often distributed by/though christian charities.

    contrary to popular belief, none of this has involved singing at rush limbaugh’s wedding.

    time to give the guy a break.

  43. Aaron says

    Does he live in a bubble and never read anything online? He is lying when he states that he didn’t know Focus on the Family’s position. The only other explanation is that he’s an F-ing idiot, but he couldn’t have created a successful shoe company if that were the case. So, he’s lying.

  44. Skep says

    So these “passionate believers in equal human and civil rights for all” can’t even bring themselves to utter the word gay in an apology for locking arms with anti-gay bigots?

    Hilariously, pathetically, and woefully inadequate.

  45. says

    Sorry, but it’s very, very difficult to believe that the TOMS people had no idea what Focus on the Family is all about. They are *infamous* as an anti-gay organization. Even the most cursory check–a 10-second Google search–would reveal their heinous anti-gay activities and the hateful homophobic vitriol that has been regularly spewed by Focus on the Family’s founder and leaders. How could anyone who is taking even the *slightest* care “accidentally” speak at a Focus on the Family event without having any clue who they were dealing with? Didn’t it become obvious *at* the event? Sorry, I just don’t buy this. It’s as if he spoke at a Klan rally and then later tried to say he thought it was just a community picnic. What a crock.

  46. says

    To all those saying “cut him some slack” and “it’s plausible that he didn’t know,” just look at HIS OWN BLOG, where HE WAS REPEATEDLY WARNED by readers in the comments section. Where he personally answered many other comments but skipped over the ones expressing concern or disappointment with his Focus on the Family association. This was well before the event. There’s no doubt: HE KNEW. He knew there was concern by LGBT people. He knew there was controversy and anger. He had time to investigate and ask questions. He had time to bow out. He didn’t do any of that. He just went anyway. And now he pleads ignorance? He’s lying. He knew. Note that his “apology” doesn’t even reference LGBT people.

    Here’s the blog entry: http://www.startsomethingthatmatters.com/2011/06/why-not-stick-to-shoes/

  47. Mainstreetman says

    I really liked him on the second season of Amazing Race. “Founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie, TOMS Shoes donates a pair of shoes to children in need for every pair sold.”
    I read that when he was in Argentina on the race he came up with the idea of
    creating a vehicle for social change when he saw all the children
    without shoes and decided to do something about it.

    I doubt that a right-wing demagogue would give anything away for free.

    I believe his apology, which is titled on his blog “A Sincere Apology”.

    This man has dedicated his life to helping those who need it.

    Maybe you all could put your pitchforks down for a minute and
    learn about what he has accomplished and the all the people he has helpe??

  48. Mundus says

    In fairness to those who think that TOMS should have known better and think the man is being disingenuous;

    NEVER put down to conspiracy or malice that which may be explained by mere incompetence.

    He has swiftly and clearly set his views straight and this should be welcomed.

  49. JD says

    The dude is a business man. The socially conscious hippie routine is just his schtick to reel in customers. He probably appears at a dozen or so seminars every week, racking in the cash, oblivious to who’s paying him. Like most average straight guys he probably couldn’t care less about gay issues.

  50. linh says

    I google’d around and found some interesting tidbits about Blake M.:
    – a stint at Southern Methodist University (SMU in Dallas) on a tennis scholarship.
    – in his myspace profile, one of his fav’ book is -Mere Christianity- by C.S.Lewis
    – he’s not very public about his view on things, but based on some of these ties, I assume he does have strong beliefs.

    As to his apologies, it seems to be BS. He did not apologize directly to the lgbt community nor did he make any donations to our cause.

    so … lotsa question marks …

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