SF Gold’s Gyms Break From National Chain Over Donations To Anti-Gay Super PAC

A group of Gold’s Gyms in San Francisco have broken with the fitness chain over company CEO Robert Rowling’s hefty donation to an anti-LGBT organization in 2010.

Two years ago Rowling gave $2 million to American Crossroads, a conservative Super PAC founded by onetime RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie and former Bush advisor and Prince of Darkness Karl Rove. The group has funded campaigns of notoriously homophobic politicians like Nevada’ Republican Sharron Angle, who has said homosexuality would lead to America’s downfall, and Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who wants a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality.

At the time Gold’s Gym Bay Area Director of Operations Don Dickerson quickly condemned the move:

We were as surprised by Mr. Rowling’s action as anyone but because our company believes in and lives up to the ideals of equality for all we are going to take the following actions:1: Our contractual obligation with Gold’s Gym expires on September 15th, 2012 and on or prior to that date (our legal counsel is reviewing our options) we will leave the Gold’s Gym brand. It is a major initiative to create a new brand and leave Gold’s Gym which has been our identity for over 20 years but we will begin that process today.

2: For every dollar we pay Gold’s Gym in franchise fees we will donate an equal or greater amount to LGBT charities. While we donate much more than this to charities and community groups that support the LGBT community we want to make a commitment to match or exceed this amount until our relationship with Gold’s Gym can be severed.

3: Our management and staff will continue to support LGBT causes in every way possible and we will use our business as a platform to fight for change and equality for everyone. We have always taken great pride in being a leader in the LGBT community and we will continue to.

Now finally free from its contractual obligations to Gold’s, the franchise group is now called Fitness SF, with locations in SoMa, the Castro, Oakland and Marin County. “Very rarely in a situation like this does a business stand up and actually take a position on the matter, which is why I think people have been so happy that we’ve taken this course of action,” Dickerson told CBS.

Gold’s management claimed the chain is non-political—and points out it has routinely sponsored Pride events nationwide.

This is a step beyond the Chick-fil-A situation, which involved corporate donations—is it a step too far? Should companies be held accountable for the politics and charitable donations made by senior management?

Drop a dime in the comments section.


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  • The Real Mike in Asheville

    I am quite disappointed that this is the first time I have seen a story about Gold’s management being so politically anti-gay — how is it with all the news about companies like San Diego Marriott to Chick-Fil-A, that a story about a company which is heavily supported by the gay community, is getting shafted by that company?

    While boycots can/have become a dime-a-dozen, this is a case where a boycot could be very effective. Fuck Golds.

  • Fitz

    Seriously Mike… it was ALL over the gay media.

  • Raquel Santiago

    I actually knew this was coming back in June, i work out here and and know almost all of their staff who are part of the community, when the donation was made this almost destroyed their company and reputation.
    I had been trying to get them to be able to vendor on SFSU campus when i was told they were blacklisted by Queer Alliance and i was like WTF, then i found out why and had them address follow up with QA. I think this is a really good move for them. Don is a really great guy and has been working hard with my organization to make their facilities more disability friendly even before the laws were passed on ADA laws. The staff at Castro really cares about their staff and clients. The local gyms donate a lot of money to not for profit organizations and the LGBTQQYIA community, very happy to see this move forward. Kudos

  • Raquel Santiago

    @The Real Mike in Asheville:

    Dont worry Mike, some of us didnt even know this happened till after we were notified by LGBT groups that they were blacklisted. That said, i dont think it should have effected individual gyms as it did like the ones in Castro and SOMA, I have always known them to be part of this community and a huge supporter of it so when i found out i very quickly got to the bottom line. But we shouldnt blame individual companies for something a corporate person above them does, cept in rare circumstances. Don immediately issues a press statement after it was done and took a stand and proud to see the stance they took and followed through with.

  • Spike

    Good for Gold’s Gym in NoCal!

    Queerty should learn a lesson as it pertains to supporting corporations that hate on gays, ie Coors.

  • jackpapa

    As a proud gay man and new body builder (started at 52 and loving it !) I would like to say this is a great business and social decision. My gym (Wynnfitness in Toronto Canada) is completely supportive of everyone who makes a committment to their health. Gay, straight, “disabled”, young, old, male, female…it’s a great place to sweat like a pig. A gym should be pro-people. All people. Hell, I’m even featured on their before-and-after advertising series with my big old rainbow flag tattoo on proud display on my biceps. (waving prouder and getting bigger all the time!)

  • Rockindad

    This is a totally appropriate response to corporately sponsored anti-gay donations. Not only does it hold corporations responsible for political donations made directly by the company, it underlines the ability of gay-oriented businesses and their customers to carry on and succeed on their own

    Now, the gay ownership of the franchises in downtown Los Angeles, North Hollywood, and Hollywood (of which, I am a member) need to follow suit.

Comments are closed.