On Tuesday night I, like many of you, learned that some guy named Stephen Ross happens to own the parent company of Equinox — the company that I work for — and that he made a voluntary choice to permanently and irrevocably damage the Equinox name. Equinox requires its name to be on every shirt, hat, and pair of socks I’m allowed to wear to work and now, due to Ross’s personal decision, is now a name that is equated with Donald Trump.
It doesn’t matter how long I’ve worked for Equinox or which location I work for. I’m not identifying myself in this op-ed because I don’t want to be fired; but more importantly, this isn’t just about me. I’m not alone in my feelings. I share these feelings with many of my Equinox coworkers.
What are our feelings? We are disgusted and horrified that the head of a post-brand acquisition company (The Related Companies purchased Equinox in 2005, though the chain had been started in 1991) voluntarily decided to assist Trump. Mr. Ross, who claims to be a “champion of racial equality,” ignores every minority voice telling him Trump represents the antithesis of everything our corporate culture is about.
He is not a private citizen making a political donation, he hosting a high-dollar fundraiser as a public display. His chosen action is an insult to the community of artists, models, actors, activists, and citizens that use and pay for our gym; many simply to get away from the stress caused by Trump. Most importantly, he chose to tarnish the Equinox name by supporting a man who regularly does and says things that would get any Equinox employee fired.
Equinox is a highly diverse company, and that did not happen by accident. The people in charge of us respect us. You can be a man in lipstick at the greeting desk and you can be a trans trainer on the gym floor. You can be you. That’s the message sent to us every year during PRIDE celebrations, like this year when we partnered with House Lives Matter and put the spotlight on trans women in the ballroom community, and everyday at work. But now, the hard work of our company and its employees — many of whom would not be so readily accepted elsewhere in the fitness world — has been tarnished.
Mr. Ross, how dare you? How dare you abuse our leadership when it has been nothing but understanding and considerate of our diversity by siding with a man who has worked to destroy that very quality?
I believe in voting with your wallet. I believe in standing up and doing the right thing. When we joined Equinox, that’s what we thought we were doing. And our company leaders, whew, I’ve got so much sympathy for them. They’ve worked hard to build this company and now can only watch as this man, by hosting a party, undoes all their effort.
This dude owns the company. He is the chairman of The Related Companies and also the chairman of Equinox Holdings. Even if he is not involved with the day to day as was said in a release, there is still an intrinsic link between our success and his success. How can our company’s leaders protest and stand against this? How can they defend us? How can they help but not feel like they’ve let us down? It is my sincere hope that all this discussion will result in Equinox rising up and removing him from any affiliation with the company in an effort to stand behind our values. We employees hope our leaders can show us enough conviction to bring back those customers and fans that Ross has driven away; to show all of our members we were right to stay. We were right to choose Equinox.
Imagine how we employees feel, working for a company that we have helped build into an open and accepting place, that’s now been redefined beneath our feet. But what can we do? I don’t know.
As for Mr. Ross, I’d like to quote Donald Trump, the man with whom he has carried on a four decade friendship with: “Why don’t you go back where you came from?”