An Army veteran says he was asked not to wear a shirt that read “2016 Trump for President” at a gym in Troy, Mo., on the ground that it made members uncomfortable and was “racist.”
Staff Sgt. Jake Talbot told St. Louis news station KMOV that he had worn the pro-Trump shirt to CDY Fitness in Troy before. But on Sunday, the owner of the gym asked him not to wear the political shirt again.
“I was just puzzled there for a second. She said that it was racist and represents racism and that’s when I when I was like ‘Oh, you’re done,'” Talbot told the outlet.
Talbot, who had been a member of the gym for eight years, took to Facebook to voice his displeasure over the incident.
He says in the video that the gym owner, whom he refers to as ‘Liz,’ said the shirt was linked to “racism,” adding, “Which I freaking hate that word, it’s thrown around way too loosely. It’s 2019, get the hell over it. It’s not racism.”
The owner, whom the St. Louis Post-Dispatch identifies as Liz Drew, released a statement on the gym’s Facebook page, which has since been deleted from the social media platform.
According to KMOV, the message read, “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.”
Members of CDY are divided, and some have threatened to cancel their membership over the T-shirt incident, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
On Wednesday morning, gym owner Liz Drew told the Post-Dispatch that she had deleted the gym’s Facebook account after receiving thousands of hateful messages, including threats to burn down her gym.
“This was about protecting the comfort level of all members and keeping politics out of my gym. Sadly, it has done just the opposite,” she said.
She disputed Talbot’s claim that she told him to remove the 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,'” Drew told the Post-Dispatch.
The gym’s owner, however, legally did nothing wrong and was legally entitled to ask Talbot not to wear the shirt. Attorney Lynette Petruska told KMOV, “The business owner really didn’t violate any First Amendment or anti-discrimination law.”
Another gym in Talbot’s area has offered him a free one-year membership after his Facebook video went viral, according to St. Louis news station KSDK.
Jake Talbot did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.
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