Wisconsin gym apologizes for ‘I can’t breathe’ workout ad with drawing of kneeling man

A Wisconsin gym is facing backlash after it advertised a workout called “I Can’t Breathe” and included an image of a person kneeling.

The roughly 35-minute drill of burpees and row exercises was written on a dry-erase board at an Anytime Fitness in Wauwatosa, about 6 miles west of Milwaukee. Written at the bottom of the board was, “And don’t you dare lay down.”

A photo of the workout was posted on social media and sparked immediate criticism from people who said it was mocking the death of George Floyd, the man who died in Minneapolis police custody after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

In a video of the May 25 incident, Floyd told officers: “Please. Please. Please. I can’t breathe.” The officer whose knee was on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, was fired from the police department and faces charges that include second-degree murder. Three other officers were also terminated and charged for their involvement.

“Really concerned that @AnytimeFitness finds mocking the death of George Floyd appropriate. racism is alive in Wauwatosa #Milwaukee,” a Twitter user who posted the photo wrote.

“It is absolutely disgusting. I saw this earlier and my jaw dropped. I am so glad I canceled my membership with them,” another Twitter user wrote.

Anytime Fitness, which says it has over 4,000 franchised locations in 50 countries, issued an apology on Wednesday, saying it was shocked and devastated over the workout.

“No matter the intent, we absolutely do not condone the words, illustrations or actions this represents,” a statement read. “To our employees, owners and members, we are truly and profoundly sorry that this incident occurred.”

Jen Dunnington, the co-owner and general manager of the Wauwatosa location, apologized on Facebook for “how deeply offensive our words, illustrations and actions have been.” Dunnington could not be reached on Wednesday.

Anytime Fitness went on to say that it realizes it still has work to do in training franchise owners to “lead with empathy, love and respect” and will use this incident to show other franchise owners why it’s offensive.

“We remain committed to working to inform and educate employees and owners worldwide to stand for our black communities including our members and employees,” the statement read.