A US Army veteran says he was told not to wear his Trump 2016 shirt at a local gym in Missouri because it represented “racism” and made other members uncomfortable.
Staff Sgt. Jake Talbot documented the incident on Facebook after the CDY Fitness manager in Troy approached him claiming the shirt was “offensive.”
“The owner, Liz, came up to me and said my Trump shirt I had on was offensive and that I’d need to remove it in order to work out there, and it’s linked to racism,” he said.
“I hate the word,” Talbot said. “It’s used way too loosely. It’s 2019, get the hell over it, it’s not racism.”
Talbot’s video went viral, prompting the gym to issue a statement on its Facebook page defending its decision.
“Allow me to clarify. I don’t believe our gym should be a political forum for anyone. I want everyone to feel safe and comfortable there. We are all trying to improve ourselves and work hard to change. Liz.”
By Wednesday the CDY Facebook page was unpublished, with the gym’s owner, Liz Drew, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch she’d received “thousands of hateful messages, including threats to burn down her gym.”
The owner says Talbot had worn the shirt previously, but after complaints from “African-American and Hispanic members” she asked Talbot never to wear the shirt again.
“This was about protecting the comfort level of all members and keeping politics out of my gym. Sadly, it has done just the opposite,” Drew told the Post-Dispatch.
She also denied ever telling Talbot to remove his shirt.
“I said, ‘Jake, we’re friends and I love you, but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t wear that shirt in the future,'” said Drew.
Before un-publishing the Facebook page, the owner had released another statement doubling down on her belief that she was “tolerant” and standing against “hate” by prohibiting the shirt.
I am deeply saddened by the amount of hate this event has garnered. I will personally and publicly continue to defend my stance for tolerance and against hate no matter the financial consequence… Allow me to clarify. I don’t believe our gym should be a political forum for anyone. I want everyone to feel safe and comfortable there. We are all trying to improve ourselves and work hard to change
Drew claims the incident caused Talbot and two others to terminate their memberships, but says ten others signed up since his video went viral.