As the Miami Dolphins launched their preseason last Thursday night, team owner Stephen Ross found himself embroiled in a controversy over his personal and financial support of President Trump.
That’s because Ross, who is also the chairman of Related Companies, which owns the popular Equinox and SoulCycle fitness studios, was set to host a billionaire-style fundraiser last Friday for Trump at his home in the Hamptons.
A plate at the undoubtedly fancy soiree is as high $250,000 — likely adding millions to Trump’s reelection coffers.
Ross and his companies have come under scorching attack on social media since news of the fundraiser broke. Many are calling for boycotts and customers have canceled their memberships to Equinox and SoulCycle.
In short, Ross is getting a taste of new style politics, where activists have been closely scrutinizing the philanthropic activities of the one-percenters — and calling them out on what they consider questionable investments.
Yes, Ross has the right to support anyone he wishes for president, but what was surprising was the naivete, or tone deafness, of his public statement and that of both Equinox and SoulCycle. They described Ross as a “passive investor” not involved in day-to-day operations, which some have found laughable.
We know Ross is not out there handing out clean towels to members, but he is company chairman and profits from Equinox and SoulCycle.
Ross believes that his support of Trump should not impact the bottom line of his businesses, where he makes millions of dollars. Well, that is no longer true. Consumers are turning their power into political muscle as 2020 approaches.
Ross defended himself by saying: “I always have been an active participant in the democratic process. While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about.”
It’s not that simple. Big companies like Nike, Uber and Chick-fil-A have been caught up in political turmoil that has affected their bottom line, sometimes unfavorably. Equinox, for one, touts being LGBTQ- friendly, now influencers in that community are asking for a boycott.
Miami Dolphins player Kenny Stills also called out Ross. In a tweet, Stills questioned how Ross could justify his support for Trump when his nonprofit organization, Ross Initiative for Sports Equality, is fighting to end racial discrimination. “You can’t have a non profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump,” Stills tweeted. He makes a good point.
Ross better realize billionaire money and politics are now intertwined.
— Miami Herald