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]