Grace Carr on January 24, 2019
An Army veteran who wore a Trump shirt to the gym he’d attended for eight years, was allegedly labeled a racist and asked not to don the apparel again.
Staff Sgt. Jake Talbot wore a “2016 Trump For President” shirt to CDY Fitness in Troy, Missouri, and was quickly told by gym owner Liz Drew that the shirt was racist and offensive, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
Talbot says he began working out before being approached by Drew who told him the shirt was offensive. “It’s offensive to her and others. It represents racism, and it’s racist,” Drew reportedly told him, according to Talbot.
Talbot continued working out and soon after posted a video to Facebook describing the encounter.
Drew maintains that she did not allege the shirt was offensive but approached Talbot after a number of gym members expressed concern about the shirt.
“I [told Talbot] it could be construed as racist and several of my members had complained about feeling uncomfortable when he wore that,” Drew said, according to WaPo.
Drew claims she didn’t ask Talbot to leave the gym or to change his shirt, but privately took him aside and asked him not to wear it again, according to KSDK News. “It didn’t seem like a big deal to talk to him about a shirt,” she told WaPo.
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Her request was not, according to Drew, about anti-Trump sentiment, but rather an attempt to keep the gym “a politics-free zone,” WaPo reported. Drew alleges she would have asked the same of a patron sporting a Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama T-shirt, according to WaPo.
Talbot served in Afghanistan and is in the National Guard. He describes himself as very patriotic. “I love this country,” Talbot said.
Talbot also said he would not have asked another person what Drew asked of him. “I would never turn anyone away from anything because of their beliefs, their religion, their opinions, anything,” Talbot told WaPo. “It’s a free country,” he said.
Drew released a statement clarifying her intent and making clear that she meant no ill will towards Talbot. “I have much respect for all of our service members. I regret that some were offended by this misunderstanding. I was simply attempting to ensure that all of my members felt safe and unthreatened,” Drew said, according to KSDK News. Drew declined to be interviewed.
“I’m tired of the split, the divide in the country. We need to come together,” Talbot said. Unifying the country is America’s third-largest issue, according to a December Gallup poll.
Talbot says he will no longer give business to the Missouri gym.
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