A Wilkins Township man who has dedicated himself to fitness and helping others, claims that a local gym that advertises a “No Judgement Zone” unjustly kicked him out of their facility and racially profiled him.
Chris Edmonds, owner of Athletic Trauma Unit, a nonprofit that offers free workouts to the community, said a normal trip to the gym with friends turned into a situation unlike any other he has faced in his adulthood.
Edmonds said that after visiting Planet Fitness in Penn Hills on June 8-9 as a guest to work out with his two friends, members Regis Sauers and Tayon Mitchell and without any incidents occurring either day; he received a call hours later from Mitchell informing him that the gym’s general manager said he was no longer welcome at the establishment. The group was accused of working out in a “boot camp” training style, which is viewed as intimidating to other members and prohibited by the gym.
To “clear-up” the situation and restore the reputation of his friends, Edmonds said he and Sauers, the one whose guest pass Edmonds was using, met with Planet Fitness General Manager Sam Travino. According to Edmonds and Sauers, Travino told them that there had been several complaints made to gym staff on both days about their “training” style and that he had also watched footage. When asked why nothing was said to Edmonds, both said they were told it was because the staff “was afraid of him,” that he “intimidating” and seemed “unapproachable.”
Both claim Travino, who is White, said it was because of the way Edmonds looked— a big, bald, bearded, Black man with tattoos. Edmonds and Sauers, who is also White, said what made matters worse, was that they were then complimented by Travino for “being such gentleman” through the whole meeting. They felt it was a slap in the face.
“Your job is to make this a judgment free zone so people feel comfortable, but now I’m uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable because I walked in here, not knowing that everyone looked at me like the big Black dude who’s working out,” Edmonds said. “For the first time in a long I felt uncomfortable at the gym. Even at LA Fitness (where he is a member and visited after the incident), I felt like, is this what people think about me? Is this how people see me? …I’m thinking to myself, ‘should I shave my beard, wear longer sleeves to cover my tattoos,’ all this is going through my mind as I’m sitting in Planet Fitness.”
Edmonds said he dealt with stereotypes as a youth—living in a certain neighborhood and being judged for the clothes he wore or his haircut—but “now I’m 37 years old and dealing with gym discrimination.”
He went on to say that the whole incident is “really disappointing.”
“I haven’t had to deal with this in a long time,” he said. “It’s bad that they perceive me as intimidating. And to be called that to my face and to tell me it was because I’m big and black and bald with tattoos— All things I can’t change. I can’t change that I’m Black.”
The New Pittsburgh Courier reached out to Travino for comment. He did not return the call, but a statement was sent from Planet Fitness Public Relations Manager Becky Brown. It stated, “To ensure the safety of all members, it is Planet Fitness policy that personal training instruction not provided by certified company instructors is prohibited.”
It went on to say, “At the Penn Hills Planet Fitness, a guest of a Planet Fitness member from another location was part of a group leading training sessions over multiple days. These sessions generated complaints from other members. Planet Fitness managers contacted the group to make them aware of the complaints and club policy, reiterating they all are welcome to work out at Planet Fitness at any time. Planet Fitness is the proud home of the Judgement Free Zone, and we are committed to creating a welcoming environment for all people.”