Atlanta, GA - As backlash against an Atlanta gym owner's sign banning police officers from his gym continues to grow, a police officer has challenged the owner to a boxing match.
The incident began when a military veteran, who was not identified, took a photo of a sign posted at EAV Barbell Club. That sign read, in part, "NO FUCKING COPS ALLOWED." He sent the photo to local media, 11Alive, and said he was offended.
The gym's owner, Jim Chambers, refused to apologize for the sign, stated that he meant it, and also said that military veterans are also not allowed. He did take the sign down temporarily for the vulgarity, which he marked through, and has stated that he thinks the problem that the public has is the vulgarity, not the message.
Chambers said that the sign is a ‘political statement’ to protect the groups who regularly work out there, including “minorities who are uncomfortable with the presence of law enforcement agents.”
He did not explain why he hates veterans too.
Another Atlanta gym, that doesn't have anything to do with the anti-police sign, said that they are receiving calls and that people are walking in, wanting them to change their 'no cops' policy. When a person googles 'east Atlanta gym', their name comes up first, according to 11Alive.
But Village Fitness welcomes police officers, and military veterans, too, and put up a large sign on Wednesday that said "We Support Our Police & Military."
Tara Perry from Village Fitness said that she was "taken aback" when people started calling and coming in to talk about their lack of support. She said that they had been there longer than EAV Barbell Club.
"I'm like, wait a second -- that's definitely not us. We do not feel that way," she said.
"When you think of an EV [Eastern Village] gym, people think of us -- Village Fitness. We've been here so long, we're established with the community. We support our local police and military. We offer discounts for them."
When asked about the anti-police sign at EAV Barbell Club, Vincent Champion, Southeast Director of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, said, "I don't understand why you'd put a sign like that up at all."
Champion, who is also an Atlanta Police Officer, said "Without talking to the man, this appears to be hate for law enforcement and for what reason? Are you doing something illegal? We will do our job. We've taken that job to serve and protect and we will do that no matter what you think of us."
Tommy Lefever, a local police officer from Fayetteville, who didn't want his agency identified, sent an email to 11Alive, and challenged Chambers to a match at a local boxing event. The event's proceeds are donated to the charity Police Athletic League. The PAL is an organization where police officers play sports with local youth in their area, or help them with their homework or other school activity.
He said that he 'understands the challenges that police officers face in 2017', and that he 'hopes the boxing match could change Chambers' mind'. Officer Lefever said "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."
He said that it's not about "breaking a nose but bridging a gap."
Officer Lefever said, "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."
In response, Chambers laughed when 11Alive's reporter Faith Abubey told him about the challenge. He said, "he wanted to know if it would be a fair fight before accepting it."