So, You Want To Boycott A Trump Donor?
Patrons of luxury gym Equinox and the self-help spin studio SoulCycle are canceling memberships and skipping classes nationwide after news that the owner of both outfits, Related Companies CEO Stephen Ross, planned to hold an elite fundraiser for President Donald Trump in the Hamptons.
Neither Ross nor his Related Companies are exactly household names. But the real estate and equity investment firm holds stakes in the hottest lifestyle brands for urban and suburban professionals. Ross owns major stakes not only in SoulCycle and Equinox Fitness but also celebrity chef David Chang’s Momofuku, dessert entrepreneur Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar, fast-casual chain &pizza and the online restaurant reservation app Resy. He also owns the Miami Dolphins NFL franchise.
Boycott calls like these can only be expected to increase in an age where the president, backed to the hilt by one of the two major political parties in the country, is a naked racist. That is particularly true when economic activity and investment is increasingly concentrated in urban and suburban areas where residents find the president’s racism odious.
It’s particularly true for brands that seek to gain loyalty by creating emotional bonds with their customers. You’re supposed to break up with someone who hurts you, and Trump opponents surely don’t want to identify with brands that fund his racism.
But what happens when every brand is connected through our financialized economy to a Trump donor?
Say you decide to do something with your friends in the city this weekend. You hit them up on WhatsApp, take a Lyft to their place, order some food on Postmates and commiserate over the death of David Berman by listening to Purple Mountains on Spotify.
Those companies are all funded by billionaire Trump donor Peter Thiel. He was a key early funder for Facebook, which later purchased WhatsApp and Instagram, and also the other above-named companies. He donated $250,000 to the president’s reelection campaign in 2018.
Lyft doesn’t just run an app-based taxi service, but it also owns almost every bike-share company in the country and a dockless scooter company. Spotify also owns a big part of the podcast industry after purchasing Gimlet Media and Anchor in February.
If you’re trying to book a room on Airbnb, guess what? That’s funded by Thiel, too. He’s also an investor in Compass Real Estate. And the sports news site The Athletic.
There are a number of sports teams you’ll have to boycott, too. The owners of the Chicago Cubs, New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Jets, San Francisco Giants and the football team in Washington, D.C., have all contributed at least six figures to Trump’s reelection. (Or you could look at this as a good excuse to avoid watching these bum franchises, save for the Cubs and Giants, that is.)
You won’t be going to the movies much anymore either, since every movie coming out today is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Ike Perlmutter, the chairman of Marvel Entertainment, is a major Trump donor. Perlmutter was removed from any oversight role for Marvel films in 2015, but that didn’t stop actor Armie Hammer from pointing out he’s still the chairman:
If you live in or are visiting New York City, make sure not to go to Radio City Music Hall or Madison Square Garden. They’re both owned by James Dolan, the billionaire Trump donor best known for driving the Knicks deep into the Manhattan bedrock.
And if you find a Nathan’s Famous shop while you’re there, beware. The hot dog brand is owned by Howard Lorber, a six-figure donor to Trump’s reelection.
While you’re traveling, you may want to do a little shopping. The private equity firm Blackstone, headed by major Trump donor Stephen Schwarzman, owns a 20% stake in luxury clothing brand Versace and a 45% stake in camera manufacturer Leica. It also holds a stake in smart home and solar panel company Vivint.
If you wear makeup, you’ll have to stay away from Revlon, which is owned by Trump donor Ronald Perelman’s private equity firm MacAndrew & Forbes. Perelman’s company also owns the alternative sweetener brands Equal, Whole Earth and Pure Via.
Comedian and actor Billy Eichner noted this problem in his call to boycott SoulCycle and Equinox Fitness.
“There are a handful of billionaires who own everything and many support Trump,” Eichner tweeted. “Practically speaking, it’s probably impossible to completely avoid them.”
His reason for boycotting SoulCycle and Equinox Fitness was that the companies had “pandered” to the LGBTQ community, a sentiment echoed by other celebrity boycott endorsers.
“This fundraiser and [its] ties to Stephen Ross, is a betrayal to our communities after masquerading as a corporate ally during #Pride,” actor Wilson Cruz tweeted.
Some of the other brands linked to Trump donors may not have successfully created an emotional bond with their customers. Or they have a monopoly, and users have no other options. That may be their saving grace as people look for any way to dissent from the president’s actions and statements.
Trump opponents, however, may just have to suck it up. The nation’s wealthy donor class will continue to fund the president’s racist rallies in exchange for more tax cuts.
You can always complain on Yelp, which isn’t owned by a Trump donor.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said Blackstone owned Hilton Hotels and associated brands. Blackstone exited its Hilton holdings in 2018.
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