The New York Sports Club gym chain is looking to lure members away from Equinox and SoulCycle this week as its fitness industry rivals face calls for a boycott over billionaire owner Stephen Ross’ support of President Trump’s re-election campaign.
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Several celebrities, including model Chrissy Teigen and comedian Billy Eichner, called on social media users to cancel their Equinox and SoulCycle memberships over Ross’ decision to host a fundraiser for Trump in the Hamptons on Friday. Ross is founder and chairman of The Related Companies, the parent company of both fitness brands.
Town Sports International, which operates New York Sports Club and its offshoots in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, is offering free entry to the public to coincide with the fundraiser and will waive sign-up fees for anyone who decides to switch memberships.
“We just thought it’s a great way to support the community,” Town Sports International CEO Patrick Walsh told FOX Business. “If you go online, you can understand that there’s a lot of people in New York and Boston that are going to be canceling their gym memberships and we wanted to welcome them to New York Sports Club and Boston Sports Club and just make sure the community had a place to work out this weekend.”
Free entry is available to residents of all four cities throughout the weekend. The company is set to make a minimum donation of $10,000 to The Trevor Project, a non-profit dedicated to suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth.
While a company representative acknowledged it was “fair to say” the promotion was a direct response to calls for a boycott of Equinox and SoulCycle, Walsh argued there is “nothing political” about Town Sports International’s outreach efforts. Town Sports International waives initiation fees for people switching gym memberships to help offset the cost of cancellation.
“This has nothing to do with the boycott. We don’t have a position on that,” Walsh said. "We support the local communities in New York and Boston. We just want to make sure that everybody has a place to work out."
Donors were expected to pay up to $250,000 to attend Ross’ fundraiser, according to the Washington Post. In a joint statement, Equinox and SoulCycle sought to distance themselves from the event.
“Many members raised their concerns about a political fundraiser taking place later this week,” the companies said. “We want to let you know that Equinox and SoulCycle have nothing to do with the event and do not support it. As is consistent with our policies, no company profits are used to fund politicians.”
Ross defended his decision to host the Trump fundraiser in a statement late Wednesday.
“I have always been an active participant in the democratic process. While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about," Ross said. "I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions."