On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that real estate developer and investor Stephen Ross is hosting a fundraising luncheon for Trump’s reelection campaign at his Southampton, New York, home on Friday. Ross is the founder and chairman of the real estate firm Related Companies, which is the financial force behind Hudson Yards, Equinox Fitness Clubs, Equinox Hotels and SoulCycle. He also owns the Miami Dolphins. Nothing that Ross or his corporate shields say, by way of spin and statement, can negate the fact that LGBTQI community must refuse to lend its hard earned dollars to the likes of Trump and the homophobic and anti-trans machinery of his administration! If anything the disingenuous responses exacerbate the call for boycotts.
The LGBTQI community, which has been a target market of Equinox and SoulCycle is outraged. Why should our hard earned dollars support, albeit it indirectly, any single politician who works not only to deny us our rights, but to promote homophobia and transphobia.
I am following the campaign which is taking off, on Change.org surrounding the controversy swirling Equinox fitness centers, and the connection between their parent owner, Stephen Ross, and a high dollar fundraiser he is planning for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
Since yesterday, more than 3,000 people have signed a petition started by actor and LGBT activist Wilson Cruz, urging Equinox to end all support for Trump and calling out the fitness chain for marketing heavily to the LGBTQ community and yet having a senior investor raising substantial money for President Trump. Cruz’s petition has taken off, and it’s also drawing major support from members of Equinox who are commenting that they either have canceled their memberships or are planning to cancel because of the chain’s ties to Trump.
Here are some comments on the petition from Equinox members:
“I’ve been a member of Equinox for 12 years – and I will not stand behind a company with no moral compass.” — Jessica Beatus, New York, NY
“I canceled my membership, I will not be part of a club that supports a hate, bigotry and racism!” — Millie Vitello, Los Angeles, CA
“I’ve supported this company for years and am disgusted by this news. I cannot stand behind a company that stands behind and supports platforms of hatred, racism and white supremacy.” — Jeff Barneson, New York, NY
“I have always thought of Equinox as a safe space. Where I could keep my mind and body healthy. This is terrible news. And I am appalled profits from me and my husband’s membership (nearly $500 a month) would go to a campaign fundraiser.” — Court Passant, New York, NY
“I was a member of equinox for 3 years. I would never have joined had I known the owner’s politics.” — Mat Eisenstein, New York NY
Meanwhile the petition continues to grow, with hundreds of signatures still coming in per hour.
Cruz said that Equinox can’t spin their way out of this controversy, and needs to answer to its members or face the consequences of many members leaving the gym:
“It’s important that Equinox know why we’re going to cancel our membership. This fundraiser and it’s ties to Stephen Ross is a betrayal to our communities after masquerading as a corporate ally during Pride. You can’t use us to make money and then use it to work against us,” Cruz said.
The Chain provided a nebulous statement trying to separate itself (as a legal entity) from the support of Trump by Ross:
The statement from their PR team went on to say that the brands “are committed to all our members and the communities we live in. “We believe in tolerance and equality, and will always stay true to those values. Mr. Ross is a passive investor and is not involved in the management of either business,” it read.
SoulCycle posted an independent statement from its CEO, Melanie Whelan, on its social media accounts, noting that the company believes “in diversity, inclusion, and equality.”
“We know who we are and we know what we believe in, and nothing will ever change that,” wrote Whelan.
However, despite the brands’ blanket statement and Whelan’s additional comments, calling Ross a “passive investor” isn’t telling the whole story. A passive investor has a financial stake but no involvement in the company. Seeing as Ross is the founder and chairman Related Companies, of which SoulCycle and Equinox are subsidiaries, it would appear, as some have noted on Twitter, that he is the boss and therefore has a lot of involvement in the company.
Ross released his own statement on Tuesday, calling himself an “active participant in the democratic process” and defending his support of Trump.
“I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others,” the statement read. Ross also called himself an “outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability.”
If this is true Mr. Ross is sure as hell working against his own beliefs.
Certainly we, the LGBTQI community, will not allow these contradictions to “pull the wool over our eyes.” This is an administration which ought not to receive one blue farthing from our community. We refuse to be taken in by any excuse – the bottom line is Trump is not a friend to our community but rather a clear enemy to our equality and full acceptance. No statements purporting support for diversity can mitigate the simple reality and that is any organizing and supporting any fundraiser for Trump, unequivocally supports racism, xenophobia, Islamaphobia, antisemitism, homophobia, and transphobia. The End!
View Cruz’s petition at this direct link: www.change.org/Equinox
By MELANIE NATHAN