private donors

Gold’s Gym Pleads With Customers: Bigoted Owner’s $2M Donation Doesn’t Mean We Hate Gays

Can Gold’s Gym woo back gay clientele by insisting the anti-gay political donations of its owner are a private matter unrelated to the fitness company? Nope.

But that’s what Gold’s is trying to do following public outcry over the $2 million donation Bob Rowling — the chief executive of TRT Holdings, which owns Gold’s — gave to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC, which has been on a fundraising bender since the spring. The ultimate goal: Don’t let Gold’s become the new Target and have The Gays start boycotting the place.

The difference between the two companies? Target donated its corporate dollars to fund the anti-gay MN Forward, while Rowling’s huge payoff was a donation made as a private citizen. Can we separate the two?

Barely. While Gold’s insists “our member’s dues are not used to fund political candidates,” its member’s dues do find their way back into the pocket of Rowling. Gold’s would not be a business without tens of thousands of members across the country forking over a monthly fee to sweat there, so those dues are directly tied to the fiscal health of Rowling’s investment. No dues-paying members = no actual business = Rowling’s investment is worth nothing. Your monthly credit card charge is what keeps Rowlings’ pockets stuffed.

Moreover, not only did Target Corporation send MN Forward money, but its own CEO Gregg Steinhafel and a number of executives also made private donations to anti-gay candidates like Rep. Michele Bachmann. And while spending $10 at Target does not make Steinhafel ten dollars richer, each penny you give the corporation bolsters its revenues, which allow it to meet earnings targets, which bolsters its share price, which increases Steinhafel’s job security and the value of his stock options. Thus: Shopping at Target makes its executives wealthier, giving them the means to help jerks get elected.

So yes, consumers should care what the owners and management of the companies they do business with are using all that cash for. Sorry, Gold’s. Not good enough.

The company’s full statement:

For more than 45 years, Gold’s Gym has been welcoming and accepting of members from all walks of life. Diversity is a core part of the Gold’s Gym tradition and we have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind. We are proud to have a large and dedicated base of LGBT members in our gyms…and value our strong ties with the LGBT community. In addition, we are proud of our employees and franchisees around the world who are part of the LGBT community and who go to work every day to help people achieve their fitness goals.

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.

We hope that our friends and long time members of the LBGT community understand that our sole purpose as an organization is to help people reach their fitness goals. Tens of thousands of dedicated employees go to work every day across the country for this very reason. They will continue to do so for the LGBT community and all of the other diverse communities we serve.

San Francisco Gold’s Gyms Running From Owner Robert Rowling And His Anti-Gay Karl Rove Cash

[photo of Gold’s Gym at SF Pride 2009 via]

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    Just a little bit ‘o damage control eh? While the San Francisco Gold’s operators have proven to be allies of the Gays and done the right thing, our community for too long has been corporate Americas bitch boys. If we can make a few quite public examples of a huge “FCUK YOU” to those companies who support groups that perpetuate harm on our community maybe we can force future potential supporters to those causes to reconsider and not take our business for granted…………..

    They seem to love the Gay dollars. Yet they cannot see why we would be upset the profits from those Gay dollars would be given to those groups who seek to harm our community………

  • bwst21980

    Also, it’s not just personal money that Rowling gave…he gave corporate money. TRT Holdings is listed as a more than $2 million donor to American Crossroads.

    See here:

    And here:

    So it’s not just someone’s personal contribution. This is corporate money.

  • peteNsfo

    I’m so relieved that the SFO Gold’s franchisee made such a bold, immediate and unequivocal statement.

    On the other hand, this release seems like one of those, “I’m sorry you were offended” kind of apologies. So it wasn’t the corporation, but we are totally funding its owner’s advocacy of discrimination.

    Seems to me the corporation has a decision to make… to what extent are they willing to cough-up cash for equality? Will we see a more forceful press-release or will they hold their breath and hope this will dissipate with the next news cycle.

    I do think the corporation ‘gets’ the value of all its customers. These moments are going to be studied in future biz school courses.

  • alan brickman

    And he’s going to get a tax credit for it…so gay taxpayers are actually giving the money!!!

  • jack e. jett

    Since Obama has leveled us to the lowest common denominater……I would say ZERO TOLERANCE to all bullshit and stop giving money to fuckwads like Golds Gym and Joe Solomese.

    If you are giving money to the HRC, you might as well be giving it Sarah Palin.

  • Tim

    The Gold’s franchisee has gone so far as to say that they will leave the Gold’s franchise next year, when their franchise expires. Customers are angry, but so are many of the franchisees.

  • Cam

    Look, these corporations need to get their CEO’s in check fast. If they are going to do things like this that damange the company customer base then they need to be fired.

  • UMB

    By that logic we should track down every donation made to Republicans and find out where all of those people work and boycott all of those businesses, we pay their salaries after all. That will teach ’em. Of course that would leave you with not being able to do or buy anything, ever. Better not drive on the street, Joe Republican works on the road repair crew and he donated $100 to the John McCain campaign. Better stop eating that bag of chips, the farmer who grew those potatoes voted for Reagan, twice. Best not tip your server, I hear she accidentally fell asleep to the 700 Club once.


    @UMB: Each and every person is entitled to support the candidate and party of their choice……That is a basic right as a citizen of the United States. While we may disagree with their actions, we have zero right to deny them their right nor cause them harm for doing so………..

    However when a corporation decides to lend their support to a candidate or organization whos agenda is to cause harm to the Gay community thru a sizable donation, it is also our choice as a community to discontinue our support of said corporatuion. By not spending our Gay dollars on their goods and services which in turn are turned into said donations to candidates and or organizations whos agenda harms our community………….

  • B

    QUEERTY: “Target donated its corporate dollars to fund the anti-gay MN Forward”

    Read and you’ll find that gays or LGBT issues are not mentioned at all. MN Forward is pro-business, not anti-gay – the problem (it seems) is that it only considers a candidate’s position on business-related and economic issues in deciding whether to fund the candidate. MN Forward can end up supporting anti-gay politicians because it could care less whether a politician is pro-gay, anti-gay, or doesn’t care one way or the other.

  • UMB


    I know, that’s what I was talking about. Did you read my post?

  • Kurt

    @B: So Gays were just collateral damage in Target’s attempt to screw workers, consumers, etc. Gee, makes me feel better.

  • WeiWei

    @B: Are you totally unaware of Karl Rove’s role in almost every anti-marriage iniative conducted in this country? “MNForward” may profess to have only a “pro-business” agenda, but make no mistake, they are only concerned with electing Republicans, and in 21st century America, Republican tends to equal anti-gay.

  • JoeyO'H

    The answer: YES! Plain and simple. Gold’s does not deserve our business. When their business dwindle down to over;y muscled str8 boys, Rowling’s will have wished he’d never made that huge contribution. Does not matter to me if it was personal or corporate money. Boycott! The shit has to fly right back into the faces of hate.
    Enough is enough and we have the power to change it. We’ll spend our money elsewheres.

  • hephaestion

    Bob Rowling is free to donate money to whomever he pleases. After all, this is America.

    And we are free to boycott the motherfucker from now til Doomsday for doing so.

  • Matt

    Surprise – FACT: Large Corporations support Republicans. Republicans support big business and minimal controls/limitaitons. Unfortunately the Democrat party represents a bunch of liars and excessive spending idiots… hmmm who do we support?

  • Thom Freeheart

    Since Obama is against gay marriage, is he one of the bigots who should not receive donations for his campaign? Should we boycott those who donate to Obama?

  • Bareback Hussein Osama

    @Thom Freeheart: NO! I am your fiercest advocate! Send me your money!

  • Mac McNeill

    There is an article about this on Fox News website where Rowling states that the franchisee was leaving BEFORE he made the donation. That his donation has nothing to do with local franchisee leaving..

    The readers comments were pretty nasty in regards to gays. Stating if gays didn’t like to take their business elsewhere. I wish more and more gays would pay attention to comments like this and DO TAKE OUR BUSINESS ELSEWHERE. I know I won’t shop at Target nor Best Buys but I don’t go to Gold’s Gym any way.

    The gays are like they have always been, let it happen. Until they start standing up for themselves how can we expect Reid, Obama,or any one else to help us. We’re docile and they know it. We’re too busy trying to find the new “hottie” for the evening.

  • iDavid

    Boycott and demand 2mil gets donated to a gay cause. And vote for the lesser of two evils, O’bama.

  • damon459

    Frankly I just don’t care anymore with all these boycotts I’m saving boat loads of cash and the economy is in the crapper. The gay community as a whole is so fragmented we couldn’t even agree of ENDA. Until we manage to stand as a unified group we’re not going to get they things we want and politicians will keep playing us like a bunch of cheap fiddles.

  • Pat Duffy

    One thing that a lot of Eejits forget is that Free Speech is a 2-Way Street. You have the Right as an Individual to say Stupid, Evil things and I have the Right to Correct you or Punish you for it AS an Individual. Heck, I’ve STILL not bought a single Florida OJ container OR can of Coors in DECADES. I put my money where it will at least not come back to bite me on my arse…

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