Donald Trump is not known as a man who cares much about physical fitness. But one thing he does care about is the happiness of rich people who suck up to him a lot, and that fact goes a long way to explaining how it is that gyms made it into the first phase of his reopening plans.
Two owners of fitness chains—Bahram Akradi of Life Time Fitness and Steve Ross of Equinox and SoulCycle—were among the 16 executives on a coronavirus-related call with Trump the day before his reopening plans were announced. They deny having spoken about reopening gyms on that call, but Akradi has been pushing both governors and the White House on the issue. And anyway, that’s the thing about influence: You don’t necessarily even need to ask if the right people are already thinking about your interests.
Working on the issue actively is Jim Worthington, a fitness center owner, board member of an industry trade group, member of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition, and founder of a PAC called People4Trump. Worthington has been pressing for gym reopenings through Rudy Giuliani’s son and White House Office of Public Liaison official Andrew Giuliani, in addition to an administration official reported to be close with Ivanka Trump’s people.
Sheesh. The ways influence works in this administration are like a caricature of influence-peddling, aren’t they?
“We just really lucked out and were able to get our message into a couple of the right people’s hands,” said an official at the industry trade group where Worthington sits on the board. That’s one way to put it.
Gyms, of course, are places where people breathe heavily and may come into close quarters, not just in exercise classes but in locker rooms. And while they’re also places where it’s socially acceptable to wipe down everything you touch, that physical proximity is the big issue. Executives at a number of fitness chains told CNN they hadn’t been given guidance about when they could reopen or how they would do so safely.