LA Fitness said three employees at one of its gyms in New Jersey "are no longer with the company" after a black member and guest accused them of calling the police on them while they worked out.
A spokeswoman for the gym chain said it has apologized to the member and his guest after the episode at the LA Fitness in Secaucus and that the company is "exploring potential training content and opportunities to better train our staff." It was not clear if the three employees had been terminated.
Now-viral videos posted to Facebook Monday showed several police officers in the gym's lobby after Tshyrad Oates and his friend, a member of the club, went to the location Monday for a workout. The exchange — just days after the arrests of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks prompted the coffee giant to shut down all its stores for an afternoon for racial bias training — sparked outrage on social media, with more than 1,000 Facebook users and Yelpers posting one-star reviews of the location in response.
Oates wrote in a post that he was working out as a guest and had signed in with his friend, who had been a member for eight years. He said they were approached by an employee telling the friend he had to pay or leave, and when the friend said he was a member, the gym called police.
"He felt racially profiled and embarrassed by the harassment of this La Fitness employee in front of other members at the gym," Oates wrote.
Oates said after the exchange he was told he was banned from the gym and his friend's membership was terminated. They were both then asked to leave.
"The front desk staff employee was confused and thought the member was a guest," the LA Fitness spokeswoman wrote in an email. "The front desk employee who made the request was not working when this member checked in the first time, so she was unaware."
She added, "Regrettably, from there our staff unnecessarily escalated the situation and called the police rather than work through it."