So Virgin Active finally apologised. After flying a team of senior management up to Johannesburg to meet Muhammed Desai, the health club admitted late on Friday that they had indeed erred in the way they handled an incident at its club in Houghton. Desai was booted out of the Old Eds Club for wearing a pro-Palestinian t-shirt on Wednesday night. Staff at the branch had asked him to leave because his t-shirt offended other members. The outrage at Virgin Active may have inspired a sensible response at last (they keep saying they havenâ€
1. Is there is a coterie of people who wield considerable influence over the way some corporates operate?
â€œThe T-shirt worn by Mr Desai generated strong complaints from fellow members at the Old Eds club and he was politely requested by management not to wear it in future.â€
This group of people have been able to persuade the management of an independent corporate organisation to bend the rules to suit its sartorial preferences in other people. So as well as telling Virgin Active how to manage their clubs, this group also decides which people are allowed admission to certain spaces, and also determine behaviour in such spaces.
When the Daily Vox spoke to Desai on Thursday he said another gym member had told him, â€œThey’ve been guaranteed by the highest levels of the company that BDS t-shirts won’t be allowed to be worn in the gym.â€
Privilege: When one person’a outrage is more important than another’s … http://t.co/fg8cqJy2K4
â€” Dinesh Balliah (@DineshBalliah) August 13, 2015
If you watch the clip with Howard (radio name ‘Hilton’) in it, it is CLEAR that the guy has a sense of entitlement, as if the gym is home. â€” Eusebius McKaiser (@Eusebius) August 13, 2015
2. Was it happenstance? Was it orchestrated? Does it matter if it was a stunt?
According to eNCA journalist Yusuf Omar, who happened to be at Old Eds on Wednesday night (he was fresh off the treadmill when he noticed a commotion), Desai was dressed in jeans and the now (in)famous BDS t-shirt. Many have speculated that Desai went to the gym with the sole purpose of having a confrontation with the club management. Desai confirmed that he had earlier received a call from Virgin Active asking him not to wear BDS apparel to gym. Desaiâ€
But Desai could as well have been wearing a pink tutu because thatâ€
Virgin Active refused admission to a member of their Old Eds club on the basis that his t-shirt offends the sensibilities of influential members of the club. It doesnâ€
3. Sure, thereâ€
Howard â€œHiltonâ€ Hersh, a member of the Old Eds club, who can be seen vocally advocating for Desaiâ€
â€” Yusuf Omar (@YusufOmarSA) August 13, 2015
4. Is Virgin Active a breeding ground for a peculiar species of South African crazies?
The original statement in response to the Old Eds incident was vague, contradictory and disappointing. Virgin Active showed that when they think the safety of one of their members is in danger at one ofÂ their clubs, they will not act against that danger. Instead, theyâ€
In response to Virgin Activeâ€
5. So, what happens now?
Desai has already lodged a complaint against Virgin Active at the South African Human Rights Commission. But Virgin have now said sorry,Â so everybody and their dumbbells should live happily ever after – until the next time someone at a Virgin Active club doesnâ€