As supporters of President Donald Trump sat down for a $100,000 fundraising luncheon in the Hamptons on Friday hosted by billionaire investor and SoulCycle owner Stephen Ross, the company’s chief executive officer offered free “social justice” rides to customers for causes hand-picked by each of her hundreds of instructors.
An email to SoulCycle employees from CEO Melanie Whelan sent around noon on Friday called this week a “difficult” one for the community of 94 indoor spin studios, after The Washington Post first reported Wednesday that Ross—who also owns the Miami Dolphins and luxury fitness club Equinox—would raise money for Trump’s 2020 re-election bid Friday at the billionaire’s home in Southampton.
In a bid to win back customers, Whelan wrote Friday that the company’s more than 350 instructors will each be invited to teach a community ride for “whatever cause is true in their heart.”
The rides—which can run up to $42 a pop—will be free to cyclists, instructors will be paid for their time, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the “social justice causes” selected by the studio’s employees, said Whelan. The company will put up the money that would have been generated by the classes.
“We’ve spent 13 years building a community based on diversity, inclusion, acceptance and love. We know who we are, we know what we believe, and we deliver on those values every day,” said Whelan.
“This is about our values. So today, we are responding in the best way we know how—with diversity, inclusion, acceptance, and love,” she added. “This is not the only answer. But it’s our answer for today, so our community can start to heal.”
Tickets for Ross’ Trump fundraising lunch and photo-op reportedly cost $100,000—or $250,000 for a package that includes a round-table discussion.
Ross released a statement in self-defense on Wednesday noting that he has “always been an active participant in the democratic process” and has known Trump for 40 years.
“While we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions,” Ross said. “I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”
Though SoulCycle attempted to distance itself from Ross earlier this week, calling him a “passive investor” and claiming they do not “have anything to do with the [fundraising] event” and “do not support it,” celebrities like comedian Billy Eichner, supermodel Chrissy Teigen, and actress Amber Tamblyn led calls for a boycott of the fitness companies.
“I rode with SoulCycle for more than 5 years,” Tamblyn wrote. “To think the money I spent on your classes went into the pockets of Stephen Ross and therefore fundraisers for the likes of Donald Trump are unacceptable. As long as he owns you, I will not be riding.”