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Virgin Active reopens investigation into racist incident after social media buzz

The Virgin Active franchise of gyms has reopened an investigation into a racist incident which allegedly occurred during a class at one of its clubs, following pressure on social media.

The incident in question reportedly occurred late last year. During a spinning class one member allegedly took offence to another’s enthusiasm calling her a “bloody k*****, a cockroach and a selfish bitch”.

The woman had reportedly been shouting “Yebo” (meaning “yes” in a number of South Africa’s indigenous languages) as the instructor put them through the various exercises.

The two parties were then supposed to meet up, with the man being ordered to apologise to the woman. He then reportedly said that he would not be able to make the arranged meeting.

According to the woman, however, the man saw her at the club on the day in question but refused to speak to her.

Speaking to national newspaper The Star, the woman said that Virgin Active’s disciplinary committee had repeatedly questioned her account as her alleged attacker was a lawyer and that if she was found to be lying her gym contract would be terminated.

Virgin Active’s Karen Gordon, meanwhile, told The Star that “the member that allegedly misbehaved also received formal correspondence…which included a final warning”.

That, it seems, is where Virgin Active would have left the matter had it not received national media attention.

The incident then came to the attention of a number of South Africa’s most prominent Twitter personalities who urged the gym franchise to take further action.

Popular South African DJ Anele Mdoda asked for the perpetrator to be named and shamed:

Fellow 5fm personality Kim Schulze urged all Virgin Active members to shout “Yebo” during their spin classes in protest of the incident:

Prominent South African author Lauren Beukes expressed general disgust at the incident:

Soap Actress Bonnie Henna expressed disappointment instead of disgust:

Renowned journalist Gus Silber was among the first to tweet out Virgin Active’s official response:

The gym franchise sent out an official response via its Facebook page, purportedly from its Managing Director Ross Faragher-Thomas:

I have been following this issue on Twitter and it is of real concern to me. I’ve asked my team to immediately re-open the matter as I personally want to get to the bottom of this. Neither I or any of the Virgin Active employees will tolerate or accept racial prejudice of any kind, what so ever. I commit to keep everyone informed of this issue and will provide feedback within the few days hours. Ross

Author | Stuart Thomas

Stuart Thomas
Stuart is the editor-in-chief of Engage Me Online. After pursuing an MA in South African literature, he spent five years reporting on the global technology scene. Intrigued by the intersection of technology and work, he joined Engage Me as the editor-in-chief. He is a passionate runner, and recently ran... More

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