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Blink Fitness Members Are Just Realizing Their Gym Is Owned by a Trump Donor

Blink is a spinoff of Equinox, which became controversial when people realized its owner, Stephen Ross, was a major Trump backer.

by Ashwin Rodrigues
Aug 15 2019, 4:03pm

Left: A SoulCycle event. Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for FIJI Water. Right: Donald Trump. Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty

Stephen Ross, the billionaire chairman and founder of Related Companies, recently hosted a fundraiser for Donald Trump in the Hamptons, at which the president raised millions. A rich guy supporting a notoriously pro–rich guy administration is not exactly news, but Ross is more than a random rich guy. His firm lists Equinox and SoulCycle in its large portfolio of gentrification starter-pack businesses, and it was also one of the primary developers of Hudson Yards, a lavish mixed-use real estate project on the west side of Manhattan that has become a symbol of New York's rising inequality. It turned out the provider of so many blue-state luxuries was actually one of the president's biggest fans.

It’s easy to make fun of people who go to Equinox, a prohibitively expensive gym franchise straight out of Zoolander. SoulCycle is also an easy target, since you could take five SoulCycle classes for $175, or you could buy a decent used bike. (Granted, there’s a much higher chance of death than riding stationary, especially if you’re in New York.) So quitting these high-end luxuries as an act of #Resistance™, as many Equinox members did, seemed like a joke. But Equinox owns Blink, a gym chain that caters to the 99 percent and costs $27.17 per month for access to their dozens of locations in New York City, or $15 for access to one location. Are Blink customers ready to follow the lead of their rich lib peers and cancel their memberships?

Shannon Donnelly, a marketer in New York City, is a reluctant Blink member. She said her Blink gym is not in great shape nor is the staff very attentive, but she was willing to put up with it for the price.

"But even that is more than I am willing to pay to a company that supports repugnant and dangerous ideology," she said. So she's cancelling her membership. "With everything that is going on in the world, it isn't enough for me to simply refuse to fund companies that are hurting the world… I feel compelled to seek out and support companies who are doing what they can to actually help it."



Ed Windels, a New York-based composer, estimates he’s one of five white people in his Harlem Blink branch at any given time*. The minority clientele at Blink, Windels said, are among the populations often targeted by Trump's policies. "How does Stephen Ross separate those two things out in his brain?" Windels asked.

Still, he's not sure he'll cancel. "The majority of people who are supporting [Trump] big time tend to be very wealthy people, and they have their fingers in everything," he said. "Can you realistically off every conduit into the White House? I don't have an answer for that."

Zoe Johnson, who works in advertising in Manhattan, isn't sure she'll switch gyms either. She struggles to see a direct line between her $15 monthly single-location membership and Ross’s bank account, let alone Trump’s campaign funds. But she's not as hyped on Blink as she was a couple weeks ago, when she tweeted, "today i am proud member of the good and honest and proletariat Blink Fitness," before she realized there was any connection at all.

"It's weird there wasn't any public outcry over Blink," she said. "It seems like the point was to hold the wealthiest/privileged people accountable, while the rest of us got a pass. I don't know how to live a completely pure life in America. I try to do my best to avoid supporting brands that are actively bad, but it seems inevitable that my dollars will end up in the hands of someone I don't agree with."

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Correction: This story has been updated to correctly reflect Ed Windels's intended point.

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