Virgin boss Richard Branson has taken to Facebook to make a public statement on the racist incident that occurred at a Virgin Active health club in South Africa.
The incident saw a white man calling one of his fellow gym members a “bloody k*****, a cockroach and a selfish bitch” after she had repeatedly shouted “Yebo” (meaning “yes” in a number of South Africa’s indigenous languages) as their spinning instructor put them through the various exercises.
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Although the incident itself occurred late last year, it only recently came to the attention of the media. From there, it rapidly gained traction on social media as a number of South Africa’s most prominent Twitter personalities urged the gym franchise to take further action.
Following the social media buzz, Virgin Active SA managing director Ross Faragher-Thomas sent out a statement which was shared on the health club’s Facebook page.
Illustrating the power of social media, Branson chose to send his message from his own Facebook page to the self-same page as Faragher-Thomas posted his on.
Branson’s message suggests that he is fully confident in the investigation being conducted by Faragher-Thomas. It also spoke about his frequent visits to South Africa, and the way in which the people there “inspired” him:
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. Ross Faragher-Thomas, Virgin Active South Africa’s Managing Director, is investigating the whole incident personally and is meeting the two members next week to make sure we look at the facts and are fair to everyone who is involved. A meeting was also conducted with both members on Saturday, and the member apologised to the other.
However, we do not condone members or anybody else abusing each other in any way and intend to reinvestigate this incident fully.
I have been to South Africa on many occasions and been inspired by the many wonderful people I have met there. As Jonathan Jansen said: ‘My South Africa is…often unseen, yet powered by the remarkable lives of ordinary people. It is the citizens who keep the country together through millions of acts of daily kindness.’
We intend to get to the bottom of this incident and I want to repeat that we will not tolerate any form of prejudice.