Planet Fitness Loses $400M in Value After Bathroom Picture Incident

By: Alex Trent | Published: Mar 23, 2024

New Hampshire-based Planet Fitness, one of the largest operators of gyms in the United States and elsewhere, just had $400 million of its market value wiped out after a viral bathroom photo incident.

Just days after viral attention circled around Planet Fitness revoking a woman’s membership for taking a picture of a transgender woman shaving in the women’s locker room, their valuation dropped from $5.3 billion to $4.9 billion.

Bathroom Incident

A Planet Fitness in Fairbanks, Alaska reportedly canceled the gym membership of life coach Patricia Silva for taking an unsolicited photo of a transgender woman shaving their face in one of their facilities.

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Signs dictating male and female bathrooms

Source: Juan Marin/Unsplash

The incident garnered attention on social media after Silva made a post on her Facebook page on March 11. The hashtag #BotcottPlanetFitness began trending in the wake of the viral attention, with many online voicing their support for Silva.

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Libs of TikTok

A popular X account with over 2.9 million followers called Libs of TikTok made a post on March 18 declaring that Planet Fitness leadership was panicking over the viral hashtag.

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The profile page of Libs of TikTok accessed March 23, 2024.

Source: @libsoftiktok/X

“Bloodbath at Planet Fitness! A woman spoke out about being confronted by a MAN shaving in the women’s locker room. Planet Fitness then revoked her membership. I’m hearing from insiders that there’s PANIC at corporate over mass cancellations and this PR nightmare they got themselves into,” the post said.

Musk Weighs In

The attention the hashtag was generating reached such a fever pitch that even billionaire and owner of X, Elon Musk, weighed in.

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Elon Musk sitting down in a black and white suit amid a black background.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

In an X post responding to Libs of Tiktok, Musk said “Planet Fitness sounds like a creepy place.” Libs of TikTok followed up on Musk’s comment by saying “They hate women and love predators. So yeah pretty creepy.”

Planet Fitness Defiant

Planet Fitness has thus far refused to walk back the suspension of Silva, even after the intense pressure from social media and their market decline.

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A man walks out of a Planet Fitness facility at night.

Source: Wikideas1/Wikimedia

The company has responded to the backlash though, defending the transgender member who was photographed. They acknowledged that while some members are uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a transgender person, “this discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender member.”

Following the Policy

Planet Fitness has a long-standing policy of restricting the ability of members to take photos and video, usually only reserving this privilege for the gym floor.

A woman holding her cell phone with her arm outstretched.

Source: Karsten Winegeart/Unsplash

“Members may use their mobile devices on the gym floor in order to photograph or take video of themselves in very limited circumstances and this privilege may be revoked at any time and for any reason at the sole discretion of Planet Fitness® team members,” the policy states.

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Legality of Bathroom Photos

Candid photos against the consent of another party, especially in a public bathroom, have questionable legality. While filming or photographing people in public is legal, any place where someone has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” is generally not.

A series of lockers numbered in a locker room.

Source: Jan Laugesen/Unsplash

For example, the Federal Voyerism Act makes it a federal crime to take a photo of someone’s private areas in places where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy or without permission. While Silva’s photo did not show anything inappropriate and would not qualify under this specific federal act, it did occur in a place with an expectation of privacy.

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Nondiscrimination Policy

Planet Fitness also has a nondiscrimination policy on the books that requires employees to refer to gender identities that members demand as long as it is a “good-faith” effort.

A series of hands from people with different skin tones.

Source: Clay Banks/Unsplash

“Planet Fitness does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any person on its premises on the basis of race, national origin, ancestry, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, disability, or any other basis protected by law. All members will have access to restroom and locker room facilities that correspond to their self-reported gender identity to the extent permitted by applicable law,” the policy states.

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Gender Identity Policy

Planet Fitness also has a separate non-discrimination policy just for gender identity. Part of this policy makes clear the company’s position on self-reported identity.

People walking with a gigantic trans flag in the middle of a road.

RL0919/Wikimedia Commons

“Planet Fitness team members and members should address transgender and nonbinary members and other team members with preferred names, titles, pronouns, and other terms consistent with their self-reported gender identity. If a team member or member accidentally misgenders someone, please apologize.”

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Planet Fitness Statement

After the viral attention, Planet Fitness put out a statement clarifying its commitment to maintaining its values.

A look at a Planet Fitness location during the day time.

Source: Michael Rivera/Wikimedia

“As the home of the Judgement Free Zone, Planet Fitness is committed to creating an inclusive environment,” they said. “Our gender identity nondiscrimination policy states that members and guests may use the gym facilities that best align with their sincere, self-reported gender identity. The member who posted on social media violated our mobile device policy that prohibits taking photos of individuals in the locker room, which resulted in their membership being terminated.”

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Comparison to Bud Light

Some online are making the comparison to a Bud Light campaign that was run in 2023 featuring transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. After Budlight paid the influencer for a series of promotions, their revenue fell by nearly 13% during the incident, and faced a similar viral boycott to the current Planet Fitness one.

A close-up image showing a chilled Bud Light beer bottle with condensation on its surface, placed on a wooden table

Source: Esperanza Doronila/Unsplash

The New York Post reported earlier this month that the Bud Light fiasco may have ultimately cost the parent company Anheuser-Busch as much as $1 billion in sales.

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The Boycott Continues

For now, it seems the boycott against Planet Fitness is still going strong. Libs of TikTok is posting regular updates to the story on their X account which is drawing millions of views and tens of thousands of likes.

The X account "Libs of Tikok" writes a post about Planet Fitness.

Source: @libsoftiktok/X

On March 22 Libs of TikTok posted, “This might be the most successful boycott since Bud Light. This is how we will take back our country. These companies need to understand that we will not accept this nonsense anymore. Do not let up! Pass it on!”

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