SF Gold's Gym (My Gym) Rebels Against Corporate HQ Over Donation to Rove's PAC
I go to the Gold's Gym in San Francisco's Castro district. I jokingly refer to it as The Gayest Gym In The Universe* (or at least the known universe--perhaps there's a gym on a yet-undiscovered rainbow-colored planet with a strict 'no straights allowed' policy).
I knew the Bay Area clubs were somewhat politically conscious because last year I mentioned to a manager, in passing, that the Rock Star Energy Drinks they were selling helped line the pockets of Michael Savage, the homophobic radio-gabber who called homosexuality "the road to death" (or at least the pockets of his wife and son, as his highly-paid legal team was quick to point out in a threatening letter to AlterNet last year). And I noticed that a few weeks later, they'd been removed from the shelves of the Gold's Gym cooler.
So I wasn't surprised to read this report by Justin Elliot over at Salon:
Four Gold's Gyms franchises in the San Francisco Bay Area will leave the Gold's brand after 22 years following the revelation that the owner of Gold's gave $2 million to American Crossroads, the conservative outfit that is funding candidates who are unfriendly to gay rights.
"Our contracts started 22 years ago. We're one of the first franchisees for Gold's Gym. We can't get out over night, but we will be out of it," Don Dickerson, director of operations for Gold's in the Bay Area, told Salon, adding that the bulk of the gyms' business comes from the LGBT community.
"It took us by as much surprise as it did everyone else," Dickerson said of the donations by billionaire Robert Rowling, whose company, TRT Holdings, owns Gold's, to the Karl Rove-linked American Crossroads. A petition has been circulating in the gay blogosphere protesting the donations to Crossroads.
Dickerson said leaving the Gold's brand may cause financial hardship for the Bay Area gyms because being part of the Gold's network allows members to work out at Gold's franchises around the country.
That we are a divided nation may be one thing that ultimately blunts the power of virtually unlimited corporate cash in our elections. Businesses get into politics to protect and enhance their bottom lines, and if half your customers identify with the party you oppose, it may become clear in the executive suites of Corporate America that picking sides in high-profile political fights isn't the best business strategy.
Of course, the Citizens United decision gave firms the ability, legally, not to disclose their political involvement. But it remains to be seen whether that is true in practice. Information like that can get out in all sorts of ways -- not just through legal disclosure forms.
* True story: I'm on a treadmill one day, and an attractive woman catches me checking out her butt as she walks by. Tactless, I know. But what I found hilarious was the look on her face. She wasn't pissed off so much as she was utterly shocked -- like she'd seen a little green man emerge from a UFO. And it was obvious what she was thinking: 'did a man actually just check out my ass in The Gayest Gym In The Universe?!?'