Twitter pressure spurs Virgin into action

2012-02-06 19:53

Cape Town - An outcry on social networks after a muted response by Gym group Virgin Active to a racist incident at one of its branches has spurred the company to re-open the investigation on Monday.

A woman told The Star newspaper that she was called a "bloody kaffir, a cockroach and a selfish bitch" by a man in her spinning class on December 31 after she continuously shouted "yebo" to the music and exercise at the gym group's.

Virgin Active members reacted angrily on Twitter and Facebook, calling for the company to "do the right thing", after the offending member received a "final warning".

The gym group has now confirmed through a statement on it's Facebook page that an investigation into the incident will immediately be re-opened.

Virgin active managing director Ross Faragher-Thomas said "I have been following this issue on Twitter and it is of real concern to me. I've asked my team to immediately re-open the matter as I personally
want to get to the bottom of this."

He said that nobody at Virgin Active would tolerate racial prejudice of any kind, and promise to keep everyone informed of this issue and to provide feedback as soon as possibl

Earlier, Liz Hleza recounted how she thought that the man was going to hit her as he was "very angry".

"He said I should keep quiet and kept saying this bloody kaffir, you kaffir. He was pointing fingers at me. He said bloody cunt and that I was a selfish bitch.

"He also told me that I was born walking on four legs with a tail, and I should go back to the bushes where I belong and make that noise there.

After the class, Hleza went to the manager on duty to complain and when that manager called the man and his friend to her office, they refused to go.

The man, she said, swore at her again. "He said 'You bloody kaffir, you are a cockroach and next time I come to the gym I will bring Doom to spray you with'."

The woman was reportedly unhappy with the way Virgin's management handled the situation.

Virgin Active's Karen Gordon told The Star that the franchise did not tolerate discrimination and that "the member that allegedly misbehaved also received formal correspondence… which included a final warning".

Regarding the instructor’s failure to intervene, Gordon said he had claimed he had been unable to hear the verbal exchanges.

The man apologised on Saturday in a meeting convened by the club, and Hleza accepted the apology.

However, she said she wanted her story to be told "because… there are still people like that out there".

Twitter users such as Elana Williams said: "I train at this branch of VA. Unfortunately, I'm not surprised by anything I have read."

Victor Dlamini tweeted: "In the end they will have no choice but to do the right thing. They must terminate the membership of the bully."

On Virgin Active’s Facebook page, Lindiwe Thabethe, wrote: "I have very angry by the story on IOL about racism at Virgin Active. At this day and age we still get people who get away with racism. Virgin Active was supposed to solve the issue immediately and a final warning is definitely not the appropriate reaction. [sic]"

  • thitos - 2012-02-06 20:05

    Cape Town again!!!

      Mr Squid - 2012-02-06 20:12

      @thitos - what are you on about? It happened at VA Morningside.

      kitneyi - 2012-02-06 20:19

      The words Cape Town are at the beginning of the article because that is where the story was sourced from - it didn't happen in Cape Town

      Martin - 2012-02-06 20:32

      Cant we reopen Robben Island and send all racist's black & white there? Put this guy in a cell with Julius!

      KallieHungBal - 2012-02-06 20:59

      You were so eager to insult a white man you didn't even read the article. Here's your sign: "I'm a boks!!" Wear it with pride.

      Sean - 2012-02-06 21:19

      @thitos - So obsessed with whites ! People like you make me sick !

      tony.kirby1 - 2012-02-06 21:29

      Actualy it happened in Johannesburg, That place in Gauteng. Egoli, Joburg. And why did it take a month to get into the papres or social media.

      Justin - 2012-02-07 07:42

      Your comment perfectly summarises the article . . . stereotypical! Racism is rife everywhere, open up your eyes and start within . . .

      adshade - 2012-02-07 08:16

      Oh come on he was incorrect about the city this happened in. His automatic assumption that it was in CT is not that ridiculous. I don't think folks are any more or less racist there than anywhere else in the country, but it does seem that CT is a more frequent character in news stories about racism. You're all like an angry pack of dogs...calm down a bit! Good lord!

      Shistirrer - 2012-02-07 09:05

      @adshade - Please provide proof of your allegations or apologise to Cape Town.

      ttrevenen - 2012-02-07 10:51

      @thitos the original article... quote... "Johannesburg - A muted response by gym group Virgin Active to a racist incident at its Morningside branch caused an outcry on social networks on Monday." Morningside is in the north of Johannesburg. Regardless of where it happened it's a disgrace.

  • Lumko Ntshinka - 2012-02-06 20:09

    The power of social media, u gotta love the modern world we live in, gone are there days when the ordinary ddnt have a voice.

  • JohncarlosBiza - 2012-02-06 20:11

    Who tf speaks to a woman like that?!!

      Sam - 2012-02-06 20:29

      I can't believe it took social pressure for Virgin to deal with it. That idiot should have been marched out by security and banned.

      Lyndatjie - 2012-02-07 06:27

      I agree Sam... he threatened a woman for goodness sake - that is a criminal offence!

      Mhlophe - 2012-02-07 10:05

      @Lyndatjie - Threatening somebody is NOT a criminal offence. Directing profanities is, and only where that person feels injured by the coments. The fact, by her own admission, that she waited until after the class to report the matter and that she accepted his appology, tells me that she has exaggerated the encounter purely for sensationalism. At the moment, we have one side of the story and no witnesses, not enough evidence to cast judgement on the "attacker", who no doubt was provoked.

  • Jacques - 2012-02-06 20:18

    they should get that guy and stuff him up!

      George - 2012-02-07 09:01

      And there are still people out there like her HA HA HA HA This is a one sided story Her side only. Lets see if she says sorry after both sides story comes out

  • Samora - 2012-02-06 20:21

    I would donner anyone who speaks to me like that, regardless of size or gender, even if that just reduces me to their level

  • Philip - 2012-02-06 20:21

    Look, maybe its not appropriate what the guy did, but "yebo" continuously blurted out is provoking a response. Like the neighbours dog that never shuts up, one sometimes " looses it"

      Samora - 2012-02-06 20:28

      so it would have been better if she had used a nice civilised language and shouted "yes" instead

      Irene - 2012-02-06 22:17

      Samora ~ There was no need for her to be shouting anything!

      Samora - 2012-02-06 22:49

      so she got exactly what she deserved. stick to you magazine

      jarred.s.holmes - 2012-02-07 07:23

      As much as I hate someone making noise in the gym, I've never reacted like this, in the civilised world one simply asks the guilty offender to keep it down a bit and if it continues, go to management and lay a complaint. No need for such a personal and hate-filled attack! Alternatively, this chap could also, I don't know...get a life? :-D

      phumlanii - 2012-02-07 07:45

      Irene - Why? Is there any specific reason the woman was not suppose to make that sound?

      Moi - 2012-02-07 12:00

      So the woman got a bit over excited and was having fun at does that warrant name calling and swearing????

  • Tony - 2012-02-06 20:22

    He must have learnt this from Julius Malema or Darren Scott or maybe Jimmy Manyi??

      Ilze - 2012-02-07 08:20

      @Tony, don't always try to deflect attention. Focus on the matter at hand. What was done to and allowed to get away with here, is and was wrong. And that's what all the rest of us civilised people see and are unhappy about.

  • dunwoodie1 - 2012-02-06 20:24

    What an idiot - publish his name!

      George - 2012-02-07 07:04

      This is a one sided attack. This woman thinks the sun shines out of her ass and can do whatever she wants to do, like some members of gov and get away with it. They dont want to fit in. She "Hleza accepted the apology", so whats the problem now.Just like juju, if anything gets said to him, he will turn it into a racist thing and add on, to make it sound worse than it started out, because she loves the attention she is getting

      Shistirrer - 2012-02-07 09:08

      I also think there is more to this story. No one in his right mind would go off like that for something simple like shouting "Yebo!". There must have been some serious provocation somewhere. I'd love to hear the other side of the story, because I think the truth lies somewhere in between.

  • Martin - 2012-02-06 20:32

    Cant we reopen Robben Island and send all racist's black & white there? Put this guy in a cell with Julius!

  • Gayle.Theunissen - 2012-02-06 20:34

    Reading racialism like this makes me sick to my stomach. When are the attitudes in South Africa ever going to change?

  • Chappies ZA - 2012-02-06 20:43

    Afrikansers is plesierig !!!

      Heiku - 2012-02-06 21:33

      jy weet dan

  • Dan - 2012-02-06 20:44

    why is it that the weak always revert to racism when it suites them?? What about the consideration of the other people spinning, who are serious about the exercise and want to focus...perhaps for Argus! Instead you get a loud mouth with no consideration for others.

      lungile.mngomezulu - 2012-02-07 09:49

      Who was weak in this case? The guy who couldn't control himself enough to request the woman to shut up? or the woman that was insulted? I would hate having someone continually shouting in a class regardless of their colour but I wouldn't call them names. We are all adults at the end of the day so we need to start acting like it, not everything should become about race!

      Moi - 2012-02-07 12:03

      Maybe that's her way of focusing? regardless, just because something/someone annoys you, doesn't give you the right to resort to verbal abuse. He could have gone to the manager and asked him to please come and have a word with the lady and ask her to keep it down.

      rbczovczov - 2012-02-08 16:13

      @Dan even I would have been annoyed by her yelling, but I would not have racially abused her, instead I would have just told her to shut the hell up. It was that simple.

  • Marius - 2012-02-06 20:44

    "she continuously shouted "yebo" to the music" I suppose it may be irritating after awhile. He should have just enjoyed himself with a few repeated "vat hom flaffie" or something similar in Afrikaans...

  • Dave - 2012-02-06 20:47

    Anyone who trains regularly at a VA shouldnt really be surpised. We are not members, but ...units....and the managers on duty are really not too interested. This idiot should have been marched out and his membership cancelled immediately

      Heiku - 2012-02-06 21:34

      What do you mean we? lol

  • Bradly - 2012-02-06 20:48

    Terrible that racism still exists in such a blatant form. Whilst I'm a huge supporter of the Virgin Group, particularly Virgin Active, I think that this matter has been poorly handled. I don't understand why only a warning letter was given to the offending member?! Surely if something to this degree happens, the member should be suspended?! I dont care what anyone has to say... There is no excuse or justification for racism of any form... Ever.

  • KallieHungBal - 2012-02-06 20:50

    A Meeting was held and the guy apologized which was accepted by her. Why go on and on about this? What else did she want? Dinner and a movie?

      Sean - 2012-02-06 21:33

      Obviously what the guy did was wrong , what he said , can`t be taken back , BUT the biggest problem here is , WHITE against BLACK , so obviously it will be a big story !! If it was other way around it wouldn`t even be in the paper !! That is a fact !! If these imbeciles from the ANCYL shout ``kill the boer`` we must just accept it !! South Africa is becoming one sick place !!!

      Ilze - 2012-02-07 08:34

      It's not about the apology, or the fact that's it's been accepted. So what if I do wrong I can just apologise and all is right with the world again, no. This is newsworthy because it mirrors the fact that these horrible acts of racism is not only still alive in this day and age but happening publicly. @ Sean, two wrongs don't make a right. Racism is wrong period, we can't defend it like little kids on a play ground - "he hit me first and therefore..." no, don't work that way. Nobody said anything about we having to accept racism, don't sit in your corner feeling sorry for yourself. Speak up and speak out and you can start by not defending racism!

  • Gerald - 2012-02-06 22:27

    The thing that stands out to me isn't that he was so blatantly and obviously racist, that is ok, you do get a rotten apple or two in a bag at times...what strikes me is what did the other patrons do at that particular time, did anyone reprimand him...did anyone actually stand up against this, I think the south African community is very complacent

      Gerald - 2012-02-06 22:41

      We must all denounce any form of descrimination, we must be very intolerant of it, not write warnings but shun it utterly, we must realise it isn't white people who are racists, or blacks who are racists, but that it is people who are racists....none is better than the other...none the victim nor the perpetrator...we are here now...if we act as a community we will weed out these bad elements, we can reform ourselves, not through the ANC, nor through DA, but through the common good of us all...and faith in humanity. Let us cease with knee jerk reactions and stooping to the level of racists or sensationalist media or or self affirming political parties with narrow interest...we don't have to be similar or speak the same language to see the goodness that resonate in all of us, even the 'bad' ones. We all here...and this is our country...

      Sam - 2012-02-06 23:24

      Beautifully put, Gerald.

      Tony - 2012-02-07 06:37

      Indeed I agree with you 100%. Without causing waves, or upsetting anyone,, can we start with AA, BBBEE, and quotas, all three of which I find Offensive and racist.

      Tshidiso - 2012-02-07 09:26

      I agree with you buddy,we are too lenient and somehow doing what we like and somebody doesn't approve we quick to apologies,voetsek mahn.....YEBO YEBO YEBO YEBOOOOOOOOOO!

      lungile.mngomezulu - 2012-02-07 09:51

      I totally agree

  • Shane James - 2012-02-06 23:06

    I think they are both wrong for being loud and the one more than the other for the unacceptable comments he made. However, everybody in spinning is trying to have a hard good focus led work out. No need for any noise from anyone as this could very well cause tension between two or more persons

  • Sarah - 2012-02-07 03:14

    What was the class instructor doing while this was going on? He or she should've asked the offensive guy to leave! It's normal to whoop and shout in any group fitness class, it's a sign of a good class/participants enjoying themselves. That's what group exercise is all about. Like it or lump it.

  • werner.smidt - 2012-02-07 06:17

    Anyone else see the same three words throughout the article?

  • Deon - 2012-02-07 06:50

    She had an orgasm on the spinning wheel I would be p'd off as well

  • Silver - 2012-02-07 07:38

    Why is Virgin being slated over this? It was between him and her. I smell someone wanting money. I smell the stink of extortion.

  • phumlanii - 2012-02-07 07:48

    The fact is racism is SA is still rife and we don't want to accept that fact.

  • Preshen - 2012-02-07 08:02

    size issue

  • adshade - 2012-02-07 08:11

    I don't know what's more disgusting: what the scum bag said or Virgin's reaction to the situation.

      George - 2012-02-07 10:20

      Wake up man, did he say that, you only that because SHE said he said it

  • ramona.fredericks - 2012-02-07 09:01

    Actually the reason why virgin active gets away with it just see below.... the likes that give them the excuse they need. Like she don't need to shout anything in spinning class...what the hell sometimes you get excited and get into it so you shout and enjoy yourself... is that a crime? does that really constitute that kind of reaction from the other party. i am sorry but i feel that guy so be fired there should be no tolerances from black white or any color for that matter when it come to racism so instead of compromising and excusing the behaviour there should be zero tolerance so that people think twice before being racist.

  • Chris - 2012-02-07 09:20

    I also attend a Virgin Active and often have issues with people mostly black but occasionally white to who push in on the circuit and when you mention it you’re a racist or you get a dirty look so there are often incidents in the gym and it’s been like that for years. As angry as they make me I still wouldn’t react like that dude, that’s a pretty angry dude with issues that needs a chill pill!

  • Makatikamusona - 2012-02-07 09:28

    I really don't believe that the GUY said all those things, I mean they are whole lots of things to say and there must probably be lots of witness and if that is the case then the guy must be dispelled and the lady must sue her. And ladies please stop with your attention seeking tactics, Ladies can a workout make you climax that one I can pardon you since it is uncontrollable

  • Omrisho - 2012-02-07 09:37

    VA should be asking and/or seeing to it that their customers behave in an orderly, polite and repectful manner to all other customers... racist comments should be addressed and loud and unruly members asked to show some respect to the other members... simple actually, seems like VA management dropped the ball here

  • Rudolph - 2012-02-07 09:38

    all i'm saying is - "when in Rome". When you're around well behaved people, act like one too. Spinning class is obviously not a shebeen even though the music is load and there is energy.

      LiAison Mangena - 2012-02-07 12:26

      Um, I'm sorry Rudolph, are you saying that its okay to direct racist slurs to another person coy they making, that's not an inteligent thing to say, we trying to kill racism and you making excuses for it the kind of people that are wrong with this world...have yourself checked at the door, Sir.

  • 001malefriend - 2012-02-07 09:43

    What is the full name and address of this alleged racist?

      George - 2012-02-07 10:26

      And what are YOU going to do about it, BIG MOUTH

  • Lindela - 2012-02-07 10:26

    I see some have never been in team sports training. Or been in a karate class. You shout and talk to yourself every now and again. To mentally push yourself and enjoy what you doing! The man must just learn to relax and destress at the gym not get so uptight. I don't care about the noise at the gym. I only get annoyed by people who don't respect the rules of the super circuit. Just get in in the middle and do many reps. We need to stop taking ourselves too seriously. Really now being white or black Sotho English Zulu or an Afrikaner male or female is not something we choose. Its just an accident of birth. However, we choose who we become. We can coexist in peace and bring up our children. All of us are the same.

  • Nathi - 2012-02-07 10:44

    The woman in question went to the papers after Virgin Active failed to sort the matter out. Virgin Active only got off their behinds to do something once word got to them about it going to the papers. The meeting between the parties where the appology was given happened in the afternoon the day the story was already in the media.

  • makesuthink - 2012-02-07 10:58

    TO all of you Read the report on EWN website. Totally different story According to them she used the K word not him.

  • Clarence - 2012-02-07 11:13

    Read in one of the previous articles that the woman is from Alexander. Hope she can arrange some people to Terminate him for good. Racism is bad, whether you green or orange.

  • Trudy - 2012-02-07 16:22

    At least black people get some results when they get racially abused. Racially abused whites just have to grow bigger shoulders and move on.

      Ilze - 2012-02-08 07:55

      Trudy go sulk somewhere else. People only get away with what we allow them to get away with. I'm white and I don't tolerate any kind of racism. Get out of your sorry corner and do something productive, you can start by stopping to defend racism!

  • Matthew - 2012-02-08 07:47

    Provoked racism. She shouted and screamed on purpose. keep an eye out, you'll see that certain racist blacks go out of their way to go to these gyms and they intend to shout and scream to get a reaction out of white people. just check out the DA youth facebook page, there's a guy who also announced he's going to shout and scream, and then attack anyone who approaches him about him. If someone makes a racket and disturbs the other members of a gym, it should be quite simple, 3 warnings and then revoke membership. End of story.

      Ilze - 2012-02-08 07:59

      Matthew honey go back to school. Provoked racism, my golly gosh, I don't like to use the word stupid, so I'll call you special. Get yourself an education, because you're really special.

      darkangelBDF - 2012-02-08 09:03

      @Ilze attacking people personally differs in NO way, shape or form from being racist. You cannot attack people you don't even know the way you have merely because they have opinions. It shows a lot about you as a person, none of it good.

      Matthew - 2012-02-08 14:07

      Ilze, won't bother to respond to your stupid comment. that man was provoked, he may have lost his temper and may or may not have swore, but at the end of the day that women should have been removed from the gym long before anyones patience came to an end. i worked in a gym as an instructor a few years back, it's 3 warnings and then revoke membership. the staff were at fault as well, they should have asked her to keep it down,because it's a gym, not a home for the autistic.

  • samantha.pcyang - 2012-02-09 13:53

    There's nothing that makes me more mad than Racism and Abuse (disrespecting your elders falls under this category as far as I'm concerned!). This 'VirginActive' 'man' is guilty of both. “We do not condone any form of discrimination at Virgin - especially racism. We are taking this incident extremely seriously and intend to look at all the facts to reach the right outcome for all parties concerned"; Richard Branson Please forward to richard branson if any of u know of a friend of a friend of a friend... know how it goes LOL!: RIGHT OUTCOME"? For who? The only "right outcome" is removing that piece of filth from our streets because it scares the heck out of me that he is walking amongst innocent ppl, even able to procreate and that you mr branson are protecting such! I once had respect for you... all i can say now is "For all your money and wealth 'Richard' you're a cowardly idiot! Let me leave you with the words of a GR8 man, a real one: "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." DR MLK Jnr and our very own Archbishop Desmond Tutu: "If you say you are neutral you are on the side of the oppressor; if an elephant has its foot on the tale of a mouse and you say you are neutral, the mouse won't appreciate your neutrality"

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