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Anytime Fitness in Wauwatosa apologizes for 'I Can't Breathe' workout; creator says he only meant to honor George Floyd

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Updated: 12:06 p.m. on June 12, 2020 

WAUWATOSA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The trainer who wrote the "I Can't Breathe" workout at the Anytime Fitness in Wauwatosa has been terminated. 

The gym shared thew news in a Facebook post Thursday, June 11. 

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Published: 2:11 p.m. on May 10, 2020 

WAUWATOSA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Anytime Fitness in Wauwatosa is apologizing after appearing to offer an "I Can't Breathe" workout.

A photo circulating online -- picked up by TMZ -- shows the workout posted on a dry erase board along with a man kneeling, colored in black, and the words "don't you dare lay down." It has since been taken down. 

"I can't breathe" were the last words uttered by George Floyd in Minneapolis as he died in police custody. Protesters across the country, even here in Milwaukee, have chanted "I can't breathe" in solidarity. 

CBS 58 spoke with a current gym member who said even though the sign isn't up anymore, he thinks the meaning of the workout was taken out of context. 

"I feel like it was more of a kneeling in protest of what’s happened with the police force. And not what it could’ve been construed as. That was just my feeling, although I have not lived the life of people that are protesting so I can’t say how they feel," said Chad Huffman, member of Anytime Fitness in Wauwatosa.

The original workout appears to have been created by a man from North Carolina. He told our CBS affiliate in Raleigh he made the workout to honor Floyd and raise awareness.

"I think fitness helps people come together and I think largely that’s what my message is. We can come together in a positive way to impact change. The message of the workout is more a rallying cry, it’s a symbol social injustice, directed towards social injustice," said Angelo Rogers, workout creator. 

Anytime Fitness in Wauwatosa temporarily deactivated their Facebook page but it was back on Wednesday afternoon, along with an apology. 

"To our members, employees and community:

We are terribly sorry for our actions this week by offering an “I Can’t Breathe” workout. No matter our intent, we now recognize how deeply offensive our words, illustrations and actions have been. One of the publicly-stated commitments to antiracism work by the owner of the Anytime Fitness brand, Self Esteem Brands, is to bolster education efforts for its franchise owners to lead with empathy, love and respect. We obviously have work to do within our own location, and we will work hard to earn back your trust and respect. We stand with our black community, and again, we are so very sorry for this insensitive move."

Anytime Fitness released the following statement on the Wauwatosa gym:

"As leaders of Self Esteem Brands and the Anytime Fitness brand, we were shocked and distressed to see that one of our franchise locations chose to offer an “I Can’t Breathe” workout. No matter the intent, we absolutely do not condone the words, illustrations or actions this represents. To our employees, owners and members, we are truly and profoundly sorry that this incident occurred. One of our publicly-stated commitments to antiracism work is to bolster education efforts for our franchise owners to lead with empathy, love and respect. This incident makes it clear that we have work to do in this space; immediately, we are sharing this incident with our franchise owners worldwide as an example of what not to do, why it is offensive, and what locations should be doing instead. We remain committed to working to inform and educate employees and owners worldwide to stand for our black communities including our members and employees.

Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen, co-founders, Self Esteem Brands
Stacy Anderson, Brand President, Anytime Fitness"

CBS 58 has reached out to the Wauwatosa gym's owner but has not heard back. 

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