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Planet Fitness: Want your daughter to join? Men in women's ...

Who cares about some guy shaving in the women's locker room. I'm tired of the NFL players flashing the reporters. On the other hand, if you got it flaunt it?

Honestly, I think the answer here is to outlaw locker rooms.

Planet Fitness’s New Chief Steps Into a Culture-War Storm

Gym chain contends with a boycott and bomb threats as it stands by its inclusive locker-room policy

By Jennifer Maloney, WSJ

May 19, 2024 5:30 am ET

Planet Fitness allows gym members to use the locker room that aligns with their self-reported gender identity.

Colleen Keating was a newcomer when she took the helm of a home-rental business, just before the pandemic hit and many people across the country suddenly couldn’t pay their rent.

Now she is sailing into another storm: In a few weeks, she will become chief executive of Planet Fitness PLNT -3.26%decrease; red down pointing triangle as it weathers a culture-war uproar over the gym chain’s approach to transgender rights.

Planet Fitness has been in turmoil since September, when it ousted its longtime CEO, Chris Rondeau. The company’s troubles took a turn on March 11, when a woman at a Planet Fitness in Alaska took a photo of a transgender club member shaving facial hair in the women’s locker room—and posted it on social media.

The company revoked the membership of the woman who took the photo, saying she had violated the chain’s policy against taking photos of people in locker rooms. Her post went viral and sparked a wave of criticism against the fitness chain’s inclusive locker-room policy.

Locker-room rules

For a decade, Planet Fitness has allowed members to use the locker room that aligns with their self-reported gender identity, the company says. Planet Fitness locker rooms also include private changing areas.

The locker-room policy is similar to the policies of several other chains, including Equinox and 24 Hour Fitness. But Planet Fitness—whose motto is the “Judgement Free Zone”—became the target of a boycott that escalated into dozens of bomb threats against Planet Fitness locations in several states.

Colleen Keating is about to become CEO of the gym chain. The culture-war backlash and threats of violence against Planet Fitness were similar in some ways to last year’s boycott of Bud Light over a social-media post. The light beer’s sales still haven’t recovered.

Unlike brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, which distanced itself from the brand’s decision to forge a partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, Planet Fitness has stood by its locker-room policy.

“I think we’ve done a good job of navigating through this whole incident, including involving federal authorities in some of the work that needed to be done,” the company’s interim chief executive, Craig Benson, said on a May 9 call with analysts. “Hats off to all of our franchisees and the employees here for navigating through this difficult period of time and hopefully getting to a better side.”

In the second half of March, membership sign-ups fell and cancellations increased, said Benson, a former governor of New Hampshire and a Planet Fitness franchise owner. Sign-ups have since rebounded, but cancellations remain higher than usual, he said.

“It killed me to quit because I loved that gym,” said Lisa Okesson-Dong, 59, a retired makeup artist in Bethesda, Md., who had been a Planet Fitness member on and off for about 15 years. She said transgender people should have access to the locker room of their preference but she feared that men could take advantage of the policy and pose as transgender women to gain access to women’s locker rooms.

Under the Planet Fitness policy, a club may ask for evidence of a member’s gender if a serious concern about it is raised. If Planet Fitness confirms that a member has acted in bad faith and misrepresented their gender identity, the person’s membership may be terminated.

Many members said the locker-room policy didn’t bother them.

“They create a space that’s got a positive, good vibe—doing good things for yourself,” said David Palmer, 52, who lives in Fair Oaks, Calif., and has been a member for about a decade. “I couldn’t care less what gender is in which bathroom.”

Planet Fitness lowered its outlook for same-store sales and revenue this year, citing the boycott as a factor. This summer, the company plans to raise its basic monthly fee for new members by $5 to $15—the first price increase since 1998.

The company declined to make Keating, Benson or the company’s chairman, Stephen Spinelli Jr., available for an interview. The Planet Fitness independent franchisee council, whose members operate most of the chain’s roughly 2,600 locations, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Planet Fitness in November announced changes to its franchise agreement in an effort to help franchisees free up capital to build new locations. Franchisees are required to open a certain number of new gyms in their territory each year; some haven’t been meeting those requirements because of rising construction costs.

Among the changes, Planet Fitness is making design changes to trim the cost of building a new gym, and extending the number of years before franchisees must replace exercise equipment in each gym. The chain expects between 140 and 150 new Planet Fitness locations to open this year, down from 261 openings in 2019.

In February, when the company decided to cut 9% of its headquarters staff, its former CEO Rondeau sent an email to the Planet Fitness board saying the company was being reckless by adopting significant changes before it selected a new permanent chief executive. Rondeau left the board, and two months later the company named Keating, 55, as its next CEO.

Hotel veteran

The Connecticut native spent much of her career in the hotel industry after studying business administration at Western New England University. Keating climbed from a hotel sales manager to a senior vice president overseeing franchise operations at Starwood Hotels and then became a top executive at InterContinental Hotels Group. There, she served on IHG’s global diversity and inclusion council. She became chief executive of FirstKey Homes, a single-family-home rental company, in early 2020, and steered it through the pandemic.

In LinkedIn posts while at FirstKey, she expressed support for LGBTQ rights. She commemorated Pride month with a post about the company’s Proud Collective employee resource group doing a service project for an organization that assists homeless LGBTQ youth.

Keating, as chair of a home-rental industry group, helped guide it in recent years through a public-relations challenge: Critics slammed large property-management companies for buying up single-family homes and, the critics argued, shrinking the number of homes available for families to buy.

She focused on how the companies helped renters—by providing affordably priced housing in desirable neighborhoods, and financial literacy programs to assist them on the path to homeownership, said David Howard, CEO of the National Rental Home Council.

People who have worked with Keating say her background in hospitality will help her in her new job. Like the hotels industry, Planet Fitness operates on a franchise model. In her new role, she must keep both franchisees and members happy.

“She has almost an innate ability to handle anything that comes her way,” said Howard, who worked closely with Keating in recent years. “No situation is too big.”

For now, the social-media noise has died down but it could ramp back up again, Planet Fitness finance chief Tom Fitzgerald recently told analysts. “You know, it is an election year,” he said.

Write to Jennifer Maloney at

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