Focus on the Family | News

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.


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.

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  1. 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?

    Posted by: Tom | Jul 10, 2011 11:30:58 AM

  2. 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.

    Posted by: downtownla | Jul 10, 2011 12:54:09 PM

  3. Saw them at Nordstrom this weekend. Since most of their shoe salesmen and shoppers are gay we should let them know how unhappy we are about them promoting this.

    Posted by: ladycaca | Jul 10, 2011 1:01:37 PM

  4. "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.

    Posted by: Codswallop | Jul 10, 2011 1:24:56 PM

  5. 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."

    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:

    Posted by: EdA | Jul 10, 2011 3:00:50 PM

  6. 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.

    Posted by: ThomTT | Jul 10, 2011 4:01:01 PM

  7. This doesn't pass the smell test - he was speaking at a rally with the FOF president. How could he have not known what they were all about?

    Posted by: Vincent | Jul 10, 2011 5:59:36 PM

  8. 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.

    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\toms

    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.

    Posted by: my2cents | Jul 10, 2011 7:07:32 PM

  9. 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.

    Posted by: Aaron | Jul 10, 2011 9:52:11 PM

  10. Those shoes ARE HIDEOUS. They are basically espadrilles without the rope. No wonder he gives them away to need peeps.

    Posted by: Judy Was A Punk | Jul 10, 2011 10:24:05 PM

  11. 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.

    Posted by: Skep | Jul 11, 2011 10:19:05 AM

  12. 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.

    Posted by: John Equality Bickford | Jul 11, 2011 11:53:06 AM

  13. 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:

    Posted by: John Equality Bickford | Jul 11, 2011 12:25:19 PM

  14. 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??

    Posted by: Mainstreetman | Jul 11, 2011 11:32:56 PM

  15. 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.

    Posted by: Mundus | Jul 12, 2011 3:50:31 PM

  16. 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.

    Posted by: JD | Jul 12, 2011 5:19:20 PM

  17. I am not against gay...I am just against the things that they do beyond what is norm.

    Posted by: Irving | Jul 26, 2011 8:46:04 PM

  18. 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 ...

    Posted by: linh | Oct 8, 2011 1:12:19 AM

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