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Gym chain apologises for homophobic article

Mon 25 Jan 2010 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

The Club Physical gym chain says it is sorry it circulated to its members throughout the country a discredited claim that drinking soy milk can turn otherwise straight boys gay. Gay Auckland man John Kingi noticed the homophobic, misogynist and racist material in the article and publicly criticised Club Physical at the weekend. He said he would cancel his gym membership and urged others to do the same. But Paul Richards, the CEO of the nationally franchised chain this morning says he did not mean to cause offence, but had hoped to stir up some rarely-received feedback from club members. "I have written this newsletter every week for over five years," Richards says, "and there is hardly ever any feedback. I was on a tight deadline and in the back of my mind I realised it might provoke comment. I'm afraid I didn't put enough thought into it." Richards says he did not mean to cause offence to gay people and did not consciously or callously intend using a sensitive glbt issue to drum up readership or comment. He says he always tries to include an item about a health product in the newsletter and last week did a quick internet search for 'soy milk,' found the article by discredited US fundamentalist Christian and homophobe Jim Rutz and linked to it without further research or checking. "In hindsight I wouldn't do that again," he says, adding that he does not believe his strong conservative Christian background, highlighted on the Club Physical website, influenced his decision to use the feature. "I'd never heard of the man or his background before," says Richards. "I've been in business for 29 years and I've made lots of mistakes along the way, this is one more, but I do try to learn from my mistakes," says Richards. Kingi says Richards' apology, which he also received personally this morning, is a good start, but he will adopt a wait and see attitude as to whether Club Physical does enough to change his mind about quitting his Auckland franchised gym. "The comment about seeking feedback doesn't wash with me," says Kingi, who is treasurer of glbt youth peer support group Rainbow Youth. "The article he directed gym members to was so one sided and negative and offensive about gays, women and people of colour that it's incredible that he could not have understood that." Kingi hopes that the next edition of the Club Physical newsletter will contain an apology and explanation which addressed gay and straight gay members. Meanwhile, a Facebook group set up to discuss Club Physical's blunder has already attracted 300 members. Addition, Tuesday 26 Jan: Radio New Zealand yesterday reported Paul Richards saying that those who are offended by the linked article's content need to get over it and that anyone who cancels their membership because of it is small-minded. The reporter who prepared that story advises that Richards spoke to Radio NZ approximately one hour before speaking with, therefore his Radio NZ comments preceded his interview with    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Monday, 25th January 2010 - 12:43pm

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