Stephen Ross, the billionaire investor behind SoulCycle and Equinox gym, is under fire for plans to host a fundraiser for President Trump in the Hamptons.
The fundraiser is scheduled for August 9 in Southampton, New York, with top priced tickets selling for $250,000, which includes a meeting with the president.
Ross is chairman of The Related Companies, a real estate company that owns Equinox, SoulCycle, and Pure Yoga. Related Companies is also behind the Hudson Yards development on the west side of Manhattan.
Ross is also the owner of NFL team the Miami Dolphins.
Equinox and SoulCycle are popular with the LGBTQ community and soon after the news broke, activists were calling for a boycott of the brands. Equinox itself touts its “clubs” as LGBTQ friendly and has a significant presence in LGBTQ pride parades around the country.
“This Pride, we’re celebrating life with one of the most powerful forms of movement—voguing,” says Equinox’s “Powered by Pride” website, which said the company raised $20,000 for a New York City Ballroom charity, and even posted a #PoweredByPride Equinox playlist on Spotify.
In a post on Instagram, Equinox acknowledged that “many members raised their concerns about a political fundraiser taking place later this week.”
“We want to let you know that Equinox and SoulCycle have nothing to do with the event and do not support it,” Equinox wrote, claiming that “no company profits are used to fund politicians.”
“Mr. Ross is a passive investor and is not involved with the management of the business,” the statement continued.
Actor Wilson Cruz created a Change.org petition calling on Ross to cancel the fundraiser or face additional cancellations.
“We believed that we were supporting a company that was inclusive, accepting and celebrating our diversity and supporting our physical and mental health as a community,” Cruz wrote. “We joined this gym because we believed it shared our values. We believed it was a safe space for people like us.”
“[I]f this fundraiser indeed does take place we will be looking for another gym to give our money to and we will be calling on our networks of LGBTQ and POC friends to do the same,” Cruz wrote.
Kenny Stills, wide receiver for Ross’ Miami Dolphins, criticized the move by saying it was at odds with the mission of the charitable organization founded by Ross. The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality is a nonprofit which says its mission is to educate and empower the sports community “to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations.”
You can’t have a non profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump. https://twitter.com/wallerabc7/status/1158882223925420034 …
Derick Waller✔@wallerABC7Developer Stephen Ross, of The Related Companies, (which developed Hudson Yards and owns @Equinox and @soulcycle) is hosting a fundraiser for President Trump in The Hamptons. $250,000 for lunch, a photo and a private roundtable. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-scheduled-to-headline-fundraisers-in-the-hamptons-where-tickets-run-as-high-as-250000/2019/08/06/47698530-b855-11e9-a091-6a96e67d9cce_story.html …10.3K7:43 AM – Aug 7, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy4,923 people are talking about this
“You can’t have a non profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump,” Stills tweeted with a “skeptical” emoji.
Phillipe Reines, a former advisor to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State, said on Twitter “No way to spin this. Boycott @soulcycle & @Equinox.”
Many others took to social media to say that they are canceling their Equinox membership, though others noted that it is very difficult to extract oneself from onerous contracts which allow few reasons for cancellation.
canceled my membership to equinox today + never need 2 go to soulcycle. don’t need to support businesses that fund any white nationalists. support local gyms, trainers + studios. tons of POC trainers + studio owners that offer more affordable options for fitness + wellness anyway https://twitter.com/wallerabc7/status/1158882223925420034 …Derick Waller✔@wallerABC7Developer Stephen Ross, of The Related Companies, (which developed Hudson Yards and owns @Equinox and @soulcycle) is hosting a fundraiser for President Trump in The Hamptons. $250,000 for lunch, a photo and a private roundtable. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-scheduled-to-headline-fundraisers-in-the-hamptons-where-tickets-run-as-high-as-250000/2019/08/06/47698530-b855-11e9-a091-6a96e67d9cce_story.html …11412:40 PM – Aug 7, 2019 · Los Angeles, CATwitter Ads info and privacy23 people are talking about this
Gay actor and comedian Billy Eichner also tweeted that he canceled his membership. “There are a handful of billionaires who own everything and many support Trump,” Eichner wrote. “Practically speaking, it’s probably impossible to completely avoid them. But considering @Equinox’s clientele and how they’ve pandered to us, this one feels particularly hypocritical and shameful.”
New York Sports Clubs, a competitor, offered free admissions to its gyms on Friday: “This Friday, August 9th we’re not doing anything in Southampton,” NYSC tweeted. “Come work out with us.”
Come workout and party with us for free this Friday. No donations needed.
Ross issued a statement on Wednesday defending his political activism and gave no indication he would cancel the fundraiser.
“While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about,” Ross said in the statement given to NBC News.
“I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions,” Ross said. “I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”
According to the Washington Post, the event will be attended by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, as well as Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.