Virgin Active apologises for T-shirt incident

2015-08-14 22:19
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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

Johannesburg - Virgin Active has apologised to Mohammed Desai on Friday for denying him entry to its Old Eds branch for wearing a Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS T-shirt.

"We have taken the highly publicised events at Old Eds Virgin Active health club this week extremely seriously," the company said in a statement posted on its website.

"We have thoroughly investigated the decisions we took, and the reasons behind them, which ultimately led to a member, Mr Desai, being informed that he could not enter the gym wearing a particular T-shirt."

This process included a "very senior team flying immediately to Johannesburg" to personally meet Desai. 

Virgin Active made headlines on Thursday for kicking Desai out of the branch in Houghton after other members took offence to his BDS T-shirt that stated support for Palestine and opposition to “apartheid Israel”.


Virgin Active said what happened was that "we took a sequence of understandable decisions in a very difficult, complex, fast evolving and volatile situation of the kind we have never had to face before.

"Our staff took these decisions with the best intent in terms of balancing the well-being of all our club members with the critical value of freedom of speech."

However, they ultimately concluded that the decision to tell Desai he could not wear the T-shirt in the club, on balance, was wrong.

"He, and any other member, is entitled to wear that T-shirt, and any other legal item of clothing, at our health clubs. We regret the incident and have learnt a lot from it," Virgin Active said.

"We are reviewing our procedures as a result to find more appropriate ways to manage any tensions which might arise in what is meant to be a positive space for members' fitness and wellness."

"We apologise to Mr. Desai for denying him entry to the health club on these grounds."


Earlier on Friday, Desai said he would still take Virgin Active to the SA Human Rights Commission and the Equality Court, even though he has been given permission to wear the T-shirt in its gyms.

He said he had met with the group’s management on Thursday and they had not apologised or taken responsibility for what had transpired.

Desai told News24 he would not use its facilities until he has received a public apology in writing from the gym chain.

Read more on:    bds  |  virgin active  |  johannesburg

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