Life Time Fitness, the popular health club chain, has banned four news stations from playing on the televisions that are mounted on the walls and built into some treadmills and other cardio workout machines. Effective 1 Jan., company policy now forbids Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and CNBC from being shown. Now only USA, A&E, Discovery, HGTV, ESPN, and local stations remain available.
The company justified its decision by saying that the news has become too “negative” and “politically charged.” A spokesperson for the chain said, “Ultimately, it always is our goal to meet the vast majority of members’ expressed requests and we believe this change is consistent with the desires of the overall membership as well as our desire to uphold a positive, family oriented, healthy way of life environment.”
The decision has received both praise and criticism. Life Time customer Peter Glessing of St. Louis Park said, “As someone who enjoys consuming news and politics, I’m disappointed that Life Time is limiting this option for members. I often time my workout to a particular news program I enjoy to serve as an extra motivation for exercising.”
Other Life Time members have agreed with the company’s reasoning, arguing that while they visit the gym to relax and work off anxiety, the news generally increases their feelings of anxiety and serves only as a distraction.
But there may be another reason why Life Time has limited news coverage. Headquartered in Minnesota’s Third Congressional District, the company is led by founder and CEO Bahram Akradi. The Iranian-American has long donated heavily to Republican candidates and organizations. Since at least 2004, for instance, he’s donated over $90,000 to the Republican Party of Minnesota. He also donated almost $5,000 to former Governor Tim Pawlenty’s successful 2002 and 2006 campaigns, and over $4,000 to Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen in 2007. At the national level, Akradi contributed $20,000 to John McCCain’s presidential bid in 2008. While he also donated several thousand dollars to Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in 2007, Akradi has overwhelmingly given to Republican causes.
There’s no evidence that he donated to Trump’s campaign, but Akradi’s conservatism could be at least part of the reason why Life Time Fitness has eliminated access to news coverage in its facilities. A recent study from Pew Research Center has confirmed that most (66 percent) of the coverage about President Trump in his first 60 days in office was negative. That’s more than twice the amount of negative news coverage that Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama received in their first 60 days. A mere 5 percent of the stories about Trump during his administration’s first two months were positive.
Given the negativity surrounding Trump and the GOP, it’s possible that Akradi decided that it was in the best interests of his party and its leader, Donald Trump, to limit his customers’ exposure to the news.
Fortunately, there’s at least some hope for Life Time Fitness members who want to catch up on the day’s news: the company indicated that in the next few months, the banned channels might be reintroduced on the small screens installed directly in treadmills and other cardio machines.
Feature image via YouTube.