Members must be tolerant of others - Virgin Active

2015-08-13 13:25

WATCH: BDS member wearing a pro-Palestinian T-shirt in Virgin Active escorted out of gym

2015-08-13 10:13

A Virgin Active gym member was asked to leave the gym after arriving for a session in a t-shirt with a political message. Watch what happened in this video shared on YouTube. WATCH

Cape Town – Items of clothing are not banned from Virgin Active branches but members must exercise tolerance and respect for others, the gym group said on Thursday.

The club was responding to an incident on Wednesday which saw Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) co-ordinator and Palestine activist, Muhammed Desai, removed from the Old Eds branch in Houghton after other members complained that they were offended by his T-shirt.

Desai was wearing a T-shirt stating, “From the coast of Cape Town to the coast of Gaza, in Solidarity with Palestinians against Israeli apartheid.”

“Our goal at Virgin Active is for our health clubs to be neutral spaces in which members can pursue their health and wellness goals while, at the same time, accommodating the rights and freedoms of all members,” said the club’s communications head, Les Aupiais, in a statement.

“We are not in the business of restricting speech or policing personal behaviour unless it contravenes the club rules, the law or carries some kind of threat to the safety of staff and members.”

'Intent on making political statement'

Aupiais said Desai’s T-shirt “generated strong complaints from fellow members” and he was politely requested by management not to wear it in future.

Desai then allegedly “aggressively declined” to do this and appeared at the club.

He was “clearly intent on making a political statement and generating confrontation”, said Aupiais.

“This is a situation we have never encountered before and we have learned valuable lessons.”

The club said it has sought an urgent meeting with Desai, whose membership has not been revoked.

Desai earlier told News24 that he will be going to the Human Rights Commission of SA and the Equality Court over the matter.

Read more on:    bds  |  virgin active  |  johannesburg

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