Controversy over “white pride” shirts at Liberty Lake gym

Controversy over “white pride” shirts at Liberty Lake gym

A trainer and member of a Liberty Lake gym has had enough; she said the gym didn’t do enough to stop a member from wearing shirts with racially charged messages, despite multiple complaints.

Treasure Brooks is married to a black man and they have three children together. They love their family-centered community and she said she’s always felt insulated from bigotry and hate.

“I’ve never had a problem in 13 years raising a black family,” Brooks said.

So, she was surprised earlier this year when a member at the Liberty Lake Athletic Club started wearing shirts commonly associated with white nationalism.

“White pride, white power, white lives matter,” Brooks described. “[Also] shirts with Nazi symbols.”

Another former member, who is Jewish, said she complained to the management, but the man kept wearing the shirts. Brooks complained, too, even confronting the member once. But, the messages didn’t stop. When her then 12-year old son asked about the shirts and what they meant, she had enough.

“You shouldn’t have to worry about intolerance and hate and intimidating behavior,” Brooks said.

Brooks said she complained several times to the management at the club, asking them to prevent the member from wearing the shirts. The gym’s owner, Grant Bafus, told Brooks what he told kxly4 News this week: that he didn’t think the shirts were appropriate, but didn’t know what action, legally, he could take.

“I respect [the member’s] right to free speech,” Brooks said, while acknowledging that the gym, as a private business, can set its own rules for what people can wear in their facility. “I don’t respect the way the gym has handled this and allowed this hate speech in the club.”

Brooks quit the gym last week and has vowed to fight for what she says is right.

After several days of conversation, Bafus sent this statement to kxly4 News this afternoon: We agree with Ms. Brooks regarding an insensitive and offensive t-shirt worn by one member of our athletic club. We asked the member not to wear shirts like that again in our facility and he agreed he would not. We are a family business that has been in our community for over a decade and one that strongly values creating a welcoming environment for everyone.

We asked why this action is just being taken now and why it wasn’t done months ago when the complaints began. We haven’t yet heard back with a response.

Is it enough for Brooks? Not yet.

“When they make it right for the right reasons – because it’s wrong – that’s when I’ll stop. Not just so their reputation is safe. That’s not the right reason to step forward and say this is wrong,” Brooks said.