The founders of Anytime Fitness have issued a corporate apology after a Wisconsin franchisee's gym created a workout titled "I Can't Breathe," the same words that George Floyd repeatedly told police officers before he died during the fatal arrest on Memorial Day.
One of the trainers at Anytime Fitness in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, posted the offensive workout poster to social media, and it included a drawing of a person kneeling and the words "And don't you dare lay down."
TMZ spoke to the franchise co-owner who said the trainer was attempting to "honor" Floyd with the workout, adding that it was to be hard enough that "we felt what he felt."
The franchisee owners' have since issued a joint statement, which said in part: "No matter our intent, we now recognize how deeply offensive our words, illustrations and actions have been."
The trainer himself told WDTV in Wisconsin that the workout's name and illustrations were meant to serve as a rallying cry.
“I think fitness helps people come together and I think largely that’s what my message is. We can come together in a positive way to impact change. The message of the workout is more a rallying cry, it’s a symbol of social injustice, directed towards social injustice,” the trainer is quoted as saying.
Floyd lost consciousness and died after being arrested on suspicion of using counterfeit money at a south Minneapolis grocery store May 25. The four police officers involved in the arrest have been fired and charged, with officer Derek Chauvin, whose knee was pressed against Floyd's head and neck for nearly nine minutes, facing a charge of second-degree murder.
Anytime Fitness is based in Woodbury, Minnesota, and founders Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen have since issued a public apology, noting that the trainer has been placed on leave and they will be implementing company-wide anti-racism training.
Here's their full statement:
As the co-founders of the Anytime Fitness brand, we were extremely disappointed to learn about the “I Can’t Breathe” workout promoted by the AF franchise location in Wauwatosa, Wis.
The franchise owner of the Wauwatosa location has taken full responsibility for the actions of his location. The trainer who created and promoted the “I Can’t Breathe” workout has been placed on leave and his employment status is under review.
Additionally, the owner and his entire staff have volunteered to be the first ones to participate in the antiracism training that we announced last week and are providing for all franchise owners across our portfolio of brands.
Under the Anytime Fitness franchise model, owners make independent decisions about local promotional activities for their gyms. However, regardless of their original intent, the actions of the Wauwatosa location were offensive, insensitive and inconsistent with our brand values.
We understand the deep hurt that this gym’s actions have caused for many of our members, and we truly apologize that this happened. This experience has further galvanized our commitment to antiracism education within our franchise network.
To our employees, franchise owners, members and communities – especially those who are black, Indigenous, and people of color – we deeply regret today’s events, and we will continue to learn from these experiences. Our commitment to eliminating racism within our business is stronger than ever.