Equinox, SoulCycle Confront an Ever-More-Typical Political Crisis

Thom Weidlich 08.15.19


Last week, Equinox Fitness and SoulCycle were put in the unenviable (and maybe no longer unusual) position of responding to a political crisis related to the president of the United States. Their reaction was not all that strong, and was much criticized. However, we have some sympathy for the difficulty of their situation.

The problem occurred when real-estate billionaire Stephen Ross announced he was holding a fundraiser at his Hamptons home on Aug. 9 for (did we mention controversial?) Donald Trump. Ross chairs the company that owns a controlling interest in Equinox Fitness and its SoulCycle subsidiary.

A backlash arose due to many of the trendy brands’ customers not being all that fond of Donald Trump. Many, including celebrities, said they would quit their club memberships. It was an especially odd situation in that the brands have no connection to Trump or anything he’s doing. (We’ve written in the past about brands having to deal with being attacked by him.)

Confusingly, both Equinox and SoulCycle responded on Aug. 7 on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) with almost, but not quite, identical statements.

Equinox noted that “many members” had raised concerns about the fundraiser. The company (writing for both brands) said it and SoulCycle had “nothing to do with the event and do not support it.” It said it doesn’t use company profits to donate to politicians. It invoked Ross’s allegedly tangential relationship to the brand: “Mr. Ross is a passive investor and is not involved in the management of either business.”

‘Diversity, Inclusion’

Again confusingly, SoulCycle put out its own statement, though — in a more-personalized move — it was attributed to SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan. It used almost identical sentences about not supporting the fundraiser, about not using company profits for politicians, and about Ross being a passive investor. “We believe in diversity, inclusion, and equality,” Whelan said.

The New York Times did a story noting the (somewhat) odd situation of the brands distancing themselves from the president of the United States. The Times quoted someone it described as a “membership adviser” to a Manhattan Equinox location who called the company’s statement “super inadequate,” adding, “There are people who have quit immediately, canceled their membership with a lot of indignation.”

Ross, who according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index is worth about $10 billion, responded with a statement of his own. He said he was always “an active participant in the democratic process.” He said he agrees with Trump on some issues and disagrees on others. He always championed a litany of causes, including “racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education, and environmental sustainability,” he said.

This isn’t the only answer, but we’re starting in the best way we know how.


It’s often a good idea to stay away from posting on social media when a crisis rages. Equinox and SoulCycle essentially did that after releasing their statements. Then on Aug. 12, SoulCycle reappeared on Twitter, admitting it had been a hard week, and announcing it was inviting hundreds of its instructors to ride for a cause of their choice in classes that would be free with the company making a donation.

“This isn’t the only answer, but we’re starting in the best way we know how,” it said.

Photo Credit: SoulCycle

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