A Missouri gym owner reportedly told an Army veteran not to wear a Trump T-shirt to his next visit to the gym because it made customers “uncomfortable.”
The veteran, Jake Talbot, said in a viral video posted to Facebook Sunday that he was working out at CDY Fitness in Troy, about 55 miles from St. Louis, when the owner told him that other gym patrons deemed his shirt with the words “2016 Trump for President” “offensive” and “racist.”
He added later in the video, which gained more than 31,000 views as of Thursday, that his shirt supporting Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign is “not racism.”
“I hate that word when it is thrown around too loosely. It’s 2019. It’s not racism,” Talbot said.
Liz Drew, the owner of the gym, claimed she did not ask Talbot to leave the gym or change his shirt but requested that he not wear the shirt to the gym in the future.
Drew posted a statement on the gym’s Facebook page on Sunday, saying the gym “shouldn’t be a political forum for anyone”:
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.
“I have much respect for all of our service members. I regret that some were offended by this misunderstanding,” Drew told KSDK. “I was simply attempting to ensure that all of my members felt safe and unthreatened.”
Lynette Petruska, an attorney, told KMOV that the owner did not violate Talbot’s First Amendment rights.
“The business owner really didn’t violate any First Amendment or anti-discrimination law,” said Petruska.
Luckily for Talbot, not every gym in the area is against his wearing a Trump T-shirt. Talbot said that a nearby gym offered him a one-year membership for free.