This article originally appeared at Anti-Media.
Atlanta — A story about an Atlanta gym owner, Jim Chambers, who refuses to serve police officers and members of the military is having a ripple effect in the community. Now, local media is reporting that a cop has challenged Chambers to a boxing match at an upcoming event.
It all began when a military veteran saw a sign posted outside Chambers’ EAV Barbell Gym that read:
“Rules: Do whatever the fuck you want, correctly, except crossfit cultism — no fucking cops.”
The veteran was offended and sent a photo of the sign to Atlanta’s 11Alive News, who proceeded to publish a story with the following opening:
“A shocking and vulgar sign about police officers has been posted in front of a local business in Atlanta. The sign could be seen from the street with the curse word blurred out, but the message is clear: It says no cops allowed.”
In speaking to 11Alive News for the story, Chambers not only defended his policy, but also expanded it.
“We’ve had an explicitly stated ‘No Cop’ policy since we opened, and we also don’t open membership to active members of the military,” he said.
Chambers has since taken the sign down, but as he told 11Alive News, the move was about shielding members of his gym from criticism and not about any faltering of his stance:
“I didn’t want the other folks there to take the heat that I’m willing to take.”
Chambers, a lifelong political activist, explained that most of the people who work out at his gym are minorities who feel uncomfortable around law enforcement. He says his gym, which also doubles as a meeting place for other local activists, simply isn’t an appropriate place for cops to come and burn off energy:
“We wanted one space that was just a little different. It’s not an aggressive, hetero-jock space that’s dominated by cops and soldiers. It’s a place where you’re safe from that.
“And we don’t want to make police stronger so that they can hurt people more efficiently. It’s not a personal thing, but if you put that uniform on, and quite honestly I view that as an occupying enemy army.”
To be clear, the atmosphere at EAV Barbell Gym is described on its website for anyone to view beforehand:
“We require no one to agree with any set of politics, but if you are hostile to the fringe, you ought to look elsewhere. We wanted to create a gym that wouldn’t be prohibitive due to cost, or overly aggressive, exclusionary jock culture. We want elite athletes and total newbs, anyone looking to pick up a bar. Meatheads welcome, too, so long as tolerance abounds.”
Unsurprisingly, Chambers’ story evoked a strong reaction in the community, and by Thursday, 11Alive News was reporting that a local cop was challenging the gym owner to a fight.
“He seems like he might enjoy getting the opportunity to punch a cop in the face and I’d be happy to oblige him and give him that opportunity,” seven-year police veteran Tommy Lefever told the news outlet.
Lefever explained that the idea is about gaining Chambers’ respect:
“I found, you sweat, you bleed with somebody, you exchange punches with somebody in a sport like boxing, it’s hard not to respect the guy for getting in there with you afterwards.”
Continuing, the officer says that first step could begin a path toward changing Chambers’ mind:
“Gaining mutual respect for one another in the boxing ring might be the start of something that can help overcome differences in world view, ideology, what have you.”
When told of Lefever’s challenge by 11Alive News, Chambers laughed and wanted to know if it would be fair fight before he accepted.
In a statement, the Atlanta Police Department didn’t comment on the “no cops” policy but said it wouldn’t prevent officers from responding to an emergency at the gym. Chambers says he never has and never will require assistance from cops, and in the meantime his policy breaks no laws.
To Vincent Champion, Atlanta cop and southeastern director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, it all sounds suspect.
“I don’t understand why you’d put a sign like that up at all,” he told 11Alive News. “Without talking to the man, this appears to be hate for law enforcement and for what reason? Are you doing something illegal?”
The strong reaction to the story from the community has even pulled another Atlanta gym into the fray. Google search confusion has caused Village Fitness, which is around the corner from Chambers’ gym, to receive phone calls and walk-ins from people regarding the controversial policy.
Tara Perry of Village Fitness told 11Alive News she does not agree with Chambers’ position. People’s mistaking her establishment for Chambers’ has even prompted Perry to put a sign of her own out front, one expressing her support for cops and soldiers.
“We’ve been here so long, we’re established with the community,” she said. “We support our local police and military. We offer discounts for them.”
Jim Chambers says he’ll be putting up a new version of his sign, this one without the profanity.