A report that the billionaire owner of popular luxury fitness brands is hosting a fund-raiser for President Donald Trump sparked a fierce backlash Wednesday, and calls for a boycott.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Stephen Ross, the chairman and founder of Related Companies, which owns Equinox Fitness club and SoulCycle, will host a re-election fund-raiser for Trump on Friday in the Hamptons, with tickets ranging from $5,600 to $250,000.
The health brands are especially popular with young — often liberal — professionals in metro areas, and market themselves as accepting and all-inclusive. Equinox, for example, supported the “Life’s a Ball” pride campaign, honoring trans women, in June.
A number of Equinox and SoulCycle members, celebrities and LGBTQ activists said they felt betrayed by its chairman’s support for Trump.
“We joined this gym because we believed it shared our values. We believed it was a safe space for people like us,” actor and activist Wilson Cruz said in a Change.org petition. “There is NO WAY that we as a community can continue to support this business if you are actively supporting an administration that puts us in danger and works towards treating us like second class citizens, and worse yet, subhuman.”
“Hey @Equinox- what’s your policy for canceling memberships once a member finds out your owner is enabling racism and mass murder?” tweeted actor Billy Eichner.
“There are a handful of billionaires who own everything and many support Trump. Practically speaking, it’s probably impossible to completely avoid them. But considering @Equinox’s clientele and how they’ve pandered to us, this one feels particularly hypocritical and shameful,” Eichner said in a follow-up tweet.
He was not alone in his outrage, as a number of prominent figures expressed their anger on social media:
There were also calls for a boycott from consumer advocate Shannon Coulter, who runs the Grab Your Wallet group that targets companies that support the Trump administration, and Out magazine editor-in-chief Phillip Picardi called for a Fashion Week boycott of Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, which was developed by Related Cos.
Equinox and SoulCycle disavowed the chairman of their parent companies in a statement.
“Neither Equinox nor SoulCycle have anything to do with the event later this week and do not support it. As is consistent with our policies, no company profits are used to fund politicians. We are committed to all our members and 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.”
Journalist Judd Legum noted that the statement likely significantly downplays Ross’ role.
Related Cos. also owns brands such as Blink Fitness and Pure Yoga, as well as food brands &pizza, Bluestone Lane Coffee and Momofuku. Ross is also owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
At least one Dolphins player, wide receiver Kenny Stills, called out Ross on Wednesday.
Stills is one of the NFL’s more politically vocal players, and has supported former quarterback Colin Kaepernick and taken a knee for the national anthem to protest systemic racism and injustice.
In a statement to the Washington Post, Ross said he has known Trump for 40 years and does not agree with all his views.
“I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges,” Ross said in another statement to the Associated Press.
At least one New York fitness rival cheekily tried to take advantage of the outcry.