Local Fitness Centers Face Backlash from Majority Owner's Trump Fundraiser

Local Fitness Centers Face Backlash from Majority Owner’s Trump Fundraiser

Equinox and SoulCycle attempt to distance themselves from event

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SoulCycle in Bethesda.

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A fundraiser for President Donald Trump on Friday has caused a national uproar, and not for the $100,000 price tag to take a picture with the nation’s leader.

The luncheon will be hosted by real estate developer Stephen Ross, the majority owner of The Related Companies, which oversees Equinox Fitness and associated businesses including SoulCycle, according to news reports.

Both Equinox Fitness and Soulcycle have branches in Bethesda.

Patrons and fans of the fitness companies have called for a boycott of the companies due to the support of Trump, with several celebrities chiming in on social media.

“the gym is my personal hell but if you’re a member of Equinox perhaps it is time to say peace(out)-inox,” model Chrissy Teigen posted on Twitter.

“Just contacted @Equinox to cancel my membership after many years. Money talks, especially with these monsters,” comedian and actor Billy Eichner posted on Twitter.

The staff at the Equinox and SoulCycle locations along Elm Street in Bethesda directed questions about potential protests to members of the executive team, who hadn’t responded to requests for comment by late Thursday afternoon.

Equinox addressed the outcry in a statement posted to its Twitter account on Wednesday, stating neither Equinox nor SoulCycle have anything to do with the fundraiser and no company profits are used to fund politicians.

The statement describes Ross as a “passive investor” who is “not involved in the management of either business.”

SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan shared a similar sentiment in her own Twitter statement, reiterating Ross’ limited involvement and distancing the company from the fundraiser.

“We’ll always stay true to our values and committed to our community. We know who we are and we know what we believe in, and nothing will ever change that,” Whelan posted.

“I always have been an active participant in the democratic process,” Ross told the Miami Herald in a statement. “While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about.”

Chevy Chase resident Kathleen Wilks has been going to SoulCycle in Bethesda off and on the past three years, but said she will never go again after Ross’ support of the president.

“It’s outrageous that a company who has created a community of acceptance and kindness, almost like a family of people accepting to everyone, that their owner is now going to support Donald Trump, who completely opposes these people and this community,” Wilks said.

Wilks encouraged patrons to suspend or cancel their membership as a protest of Ross.

“The best way to do it is money,” she said. “If you don’t have money, then no influence and no power.”

Wilks added she hates the instructors will be hurt by a boycott, and hopes they can make a stand against potential backlash.

SoulCycle instructor Alli Michal outlined exactly that in an Instagram post on Wednesday, addressing client concerns and explaining that instructors support the company, not Ross or Trump.

“Hours after this came out, divisiveness exploded in a community of love, respect, and unity. My fellow instructors are taking a stand BEHIND #soulcycle – protecting the doors they’ve worked so hard to open to so many people.”

Michal added that instructors would allow for voices to be heard, while speaking up themselves about the values and goals of SoulCycle.

SoulCycle rider Stephanie Corcoran of Chevy Chase said that while she’s embarrassed to just be finding out about Ross and his support of Trump, she doesn’t plan on boycotting the company.

“SoulCycle is exactly the opposite of the policies of its owner,” Corcoran said.

She added that she didn’t feel the company deserved any backlash solely for a billionaire’s role as a majority owner.

Charlie Wright can be reached at charlie.wright@bethesdamagazine.com

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