LA Fitness is under fire after an employee asked two black men to leave one of its New Jersey clubs on Monday. The gym chain has since apologized and promised to improve racial sensitivity training among its staffers.
One of the men, Tshyrad Oates, posted videos of the incident on Facebook. Oates wrote on Facebook that he had signed in with a four-day guest pass from his friend, a club member. “After about a half hour, I was approached by this same employee telling me that I had to leave or pay, and I explained to her that I just signed in with her with the guest pass,” he said. “She stated that it was my friend who did not pay (unaware that her manager had already signed him in with his membership pass). My friend stated to her that he is an active and current member and that his gym tag was in his locker.”
Oates says his friend “felt racially profiled and embarrassed by the harassment of this LA Fitness employee in front of other members at the gym.” The two continued working out before they were interrupted again — this time by two police officers, who questioned why they were working out with no memberships.
“We explained to them about our guest pass and rescanned my friend’s member tag, and it resulted in current active status,” Oates said. He and his friend started working out yet again but were reportedly told by an LA Fitness manager just 10 minutes later that they needed to leave. Then, Oates says that five police officers showed up and echoed that demand. Oates said that they weren’t given a reason why and were told that “I was banned from the gym and my friend’s gym membership has been terminated, effective immediately.”
In a statement released on Thursday per CNN, LA Fitness said, “Clearly, this is a longtime member, with a current, valid membership. We want to clarify that no membership was canceled and no one, including the member’s guest, was banned from the club.”
LA Fitness also said in the statement that a front desk employee was confused and thought the member was a guest. “Regrettably, from there our staff unnecessarily escalated the situation and called the police rather than work through it,” LA Fitness said, adding that the company is “currently exploring potential training content and opportunities to better train our staff.” LA Fitness did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.
The news comes on the heels of an incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks in which two black men were arrested within minutes of entering after a manager called police because the men hadn’t ordered anything. Starbucks issued a public apology and says it plans to close its stores on May 29 in order to spend time educating its employees about racial bias.