A leading figure in the “alt-right” movement had his gym membership revoked after a Georgetown University professor confronted him during a workout and called him a neo-Nazi.
Professor C. Christine Fair told The Associated Press on Monday that the Old Town Sport&Health club in Alexandria, Virginia, informed her that it terminated the membership of white nationalist Richard Spencer following last Wednesday’s confrontation in the gym.
The gym’s general manager didn’t immediately respond to a call for comment. Fair said she believes the gym made a “business decision” in pulling Spencer’s membership.
Spencer told BuzzFeed that he didn’t think the gym’s decision was fair. The website published a copy of the gym’s termination letter to Spencer, and it didn’t cite a reason.
“I’m really a model gymgoer. I don’t bother anyone. I don’t talk to anyone. I really just go and lift weights,” Spencer said.
Fair, who teaches at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, published photos of her confrontation with Spencer in a blog post. She said he denied being Richard Spencer when she asked him if that’s his name.
“I said, ‘Oh, not only are you a Nazi, you’re a cowardly Nazi,” she recalled.
Fair said another gym member, a white woman, yelled at her “for making a scene” and threatened to call police.
Spencer said he was “peacefully working out” when Fair confronted him.
“I don’t come to the gym to do politics. But she started screeching and yelling all this stuff,” said Spencer, who popularized the term “alt-right” to describe a fringe movement that’s a loose mix of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-immigration views.
Fair said she would do it again — and urged others to confront haters wherever they can.
“I really do think we’re in this ‘Germany-1932’ moment,” she said. “The worst thing we can do is be silent and pretend that just because he didn’t bring his torch to the gym, he’s only a Nazi from 9 to 5.”
Spencer, who runs the nonprofit National Policy Institute, has advocated for an “ethno-state” that would be a “safe space” for white people. After President Donald Trump’s election, he hosted a conference in Washington where he shouted “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” and the audience responded with Nazi salutes.
The mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, became the target of Twitter trolls this month after he lashed out at torch-toting white nationalists who protested in his city, a gathering that included Spencer.
Fair said anonymous internet trolls also sent her a slew of hateful emails and social media messages after publishing her home address and telephone number.
But she argues the gym had a right to revoke Spencer’s membership because his presence could create a hostile work environment for employees, some of whom are black.
“There is no First Amendment issue here,” she said. “This is a private club that can regulate speech as it sees fit.”