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?

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