It's a shame that the franchise owners are going to bear the brunt of this, simply because their gyms are the most famous face of Rob Rowling's holdings. But when corporations can donate massive amounts to support politicians and public policy that hurts the rest of us, we will fight back however we can:
Four Gold's Gyms franchises in the San Francisco Bay Area will leave the Gold's brand after 22 years following the revelation that the owner of Gold's gave $2 million to American Crossroads, the conservative outfit that is funding candidates who are unfriendly to gay rights.
"Our contracts started 22 years ago. We're one of the first franchisees for Gold's Gym. We can't get out overnight, but we will be out of it," Don Dickerson, director of operations for Gold's in the Bay Area, told Salon, adding that the bulk of the gyms' business comes from the LGBT community.
"It took us by as much surprise as it did everyone else," Dickerson said of the donations by billionaire Robert Rowling, whose company, TRT Holdings, owns Gold's, to the Karl Rove-linked American Crossroads. A petition has been circulating in the gay blogosphere protesting the donations to Crossroads.
Dickerson said leaving the Gold's brand may cause financial hardship for the Bay Area gyms because being part of the Gold's network allows members to work out at Gold's franchises around the country. Nevertheless, once the Bay Area gyms' contract is up with Gold's in September 2012, they will be leaving the brand. In the meantime, they will donate a sum equivalent to their Gold's franchise fees to LGBT charities.
Alex Kattar, a Gold's instructor in the Bay Area, told Salon he was worried about the gyms' public image after the news of the Crossroads donation got around. "As a member of the LGBT community, I was frustrated beyond being offended," he said. "I was shocked at the fact that nobody thinks of the reprecussions that these donations have. Most of our staff if not everybody is gay."
Dave Reiseman, spokesman for Gold's Gym International, is doing his best to distance Gold's Gym from Bob Rowling with a statement released yesterday:
Gold's Gym did not make a donation to American Crossroads (or any other political organization) and in no way supports anti-gay causes. Quite the contrary, the Gold’s Gym family has been strong supporters of the LGBT community over the years. This includes supporting PRIDE events, sponsoring LGBT media outlets and donating to various LGBT charities in the communities we serve.
Gold's Gym is a non-political organization and our member's dues are not used to fund political candidates. Bob Rowling, the CEO of our ownership group, TRT Holdings, made a private donation completely independent from (and not on behalf of) Gold's Gym.
It is important to note that most Gold’s Gyms around the country are independently owned and operated by franchisees. They are hard working small business owners who embrace and accept members from all walks of life.