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‘Slavery Was Hard and So Is This’: UK Black Trainer Takes Responsibility for Posting ’12 Years a Slave’ Workout Ad

UK gym chain PureGym and its personal trainer Matt Simpson are under fire for creating a racially insensitive workout to celebrate Black History Month, which is observed in October in the U.K.

In a Facebook post shared Monday about the classes, PureGym Luton & Dunstable wrote: “Entitled ’12 Years of Slave’ (after the epic movie) this is our workout designed by @mattsimpt to celebrate Black History Month. Slavery was hard and so is this.”

It has since been removed and PureGym issued an apology stating, “PureGym apologises unreservedly for a post regarding Black History Month that was made today by our gym in Luton & Dunstable. This post was wholly unacceptable, was not approved or endorsed by the company and was removed when it was brought to our attention.

“We take this matter extremely seriously and are urgently investigating how or why this post was made. Thank you to those people who commented on this post and for raising this with us.”

However, the assistant manager of the gym who initially posted the image proceeded to repost it on his Instagram page, defending the workout. The personal trainer behind the workout Simpson, who is Black, said in the caption that he had to take the workout off of the PureGym Facebook account because “apparently the wording was an issue.” The post was subsequently removed from the assistant manager’s personal account.

Meanwhile, Simpson reacted to a tweet about the workout, writing, “What’s so interesting about it? I’ve merely taken the name of an Oscar winning film and given it to a workout having the number of exercise coincide with the number in the title.”

Simpson has since resurfaced with an apology, shared to Instagram on Tuesday, in which he insisted there was no malevolence or racist intent behind the original post.

“For those who are coming across me this morning for the first time, I am the individual who posted the ’12 Years of Slave’ workout yesterday morning via the PureGym Luton and Dunstable Instagram account,” he wrote.

“I sincerely apologise to all who I offended and angered in any way, shape or form, directly or indirectly,” Simpson continued. “There was absolutely no malice or ill intentions meant by the post. This was a very ill-judged post which I am responsible for. There are no excuses for it. Only a place from which the post came. Which was from a proud black man wanting to bring his history together with his passion and profession. Unfortunately as a result I have been vilified and branded a racist.”

“The branding of PureGym as racist couldn’t be further from the truth in my experience,” he added. “During my time at the company, I have never experienced any racial prejudice and have always been given the tools and support needed. This is a very hard lesson for me and I wholeheartedly apologise to all affected. I am deeply sorry.”

Simpson is a known as a certified massage therapist and personal trainer, and appeared on a television show in the U.K. as a personal trainer for obese teenagers attempting to lose weight.

It is not apparent if Simpson will face any disciplinary action from PureGym.

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