A few weeks ago, I read an article that spurred me initially to deep thought and soul searching and then spurred me to action in the form that comes naturally to this career journalist. I put fingers to keyboard and let my words spill out in an effort to change the mind of someone in a position of power in a company I have come to view as a home away from home.
Planet Fitness, LLC
26 Fox Run Road Room 114
Newington, New Hampshire 03801
Att: Chris Rondeau
October 5, 2019
Dear Mr. Rondeau:
I have been a long-time member of Planet Fitness, and it has a special place in my heart for many reasons, as you will discover in a moment. I joined in part because it was local, convenient and affordable. I grew up in a home in which physical and emotional wellbeing were encouraged and into their 80s, my parents were active. My father, in his retirement, worked in a gym for 18 years until Parkinson’s took hold. He was a consummate ‘gym rat’ and they modeled lifelong fitness for me. Back in 2014, as a Black card member, I worked out 5-6 days a week at your Souderton, PA location. Then, on June 12, 2014, on my way home, I had a heart attack. After medically supervised cardiac rehab at the hospital-owned facilities, I renewed my membership at Planet Fitness. I was welcomed back with open arms by the staff and began to work with a trainer named Jody who helped me continue my progress.
When the Doylestown, PA location opened, I transferred there since it is closer. I feel welcomed, especially by staff members named Nellie, Paul and Alyssa, who call me by name every time I walk through the door. It feels like a home away from home.
I enjoy being a member since the machines are well maintained and the facilities are clean. I notice that the staff are all ages and body types, just like the members. I am 61 and am surrounded by folks who seem to be in better shape than I am and others who give it their best with braces and canes that help them to get around. I also like the cultural diversity that I have observed at all of the locations I have visited over the years. The signage and the overall ethos seems to be one of inclusivity and acceptance.
Imagine my shock when I saw this article. It was brought to my attention by several friends who know I am a member since I post what I call my accountability photos online when I work out. While I respect your right to hold your personal views which are a reflection of your values, I wonder how you can support a man and an administration whose own stated views and actions are the polar opposite of what The Judgment Free Zone purports to stand for.
*Mocking a disabled reporter (there are members with various physical challenges I have seen)
*Sexual insults toward women (I would imagine that the majority of your members are women)
*Demonizing of immigrants (the cultural diversity at PF is apparent)
*Policy assault on LGBTQ+ individuals (I am certain that a portion of your members are in that demographic)
*His words incite hate crimes. (again, the demographic of your gyms include POC, Muslims, and Jews)
Here’s where I find myself in a conundrum. I put my money where my values are. I could switch gyms, and let my friends know why. Some of them are also PF members. As a journalist, I am an influencer. I consider the social conscience benefits of a boycott, but to you personally, it would be inconsequential. To your employees, who come to work every day and do a phenomenal job, it could be disruptive if membership drops.
My intention in writing this letter is to ask you to search your conscience and question if this is really how you want to be viewed, as someone whose company presents a false front of acceptance, diversity, and inclusivity while you who are in a prominent leadership position supports what is diametrically opposed to it.
I want to be proud to remain a member. At the moment, it is in doubt.
Please respond to this letter.
Thus far, I have not heard from Mr. Rondeau, nor do I expect to, but I am open to being pleasantly surprised.
Images courtesy of the author.