Hixson woman says gym asked sister with Down syndrome to hide "intimidating" belt

Alicia Rogers says she and her sister Amanda, who has Down syndrome, were exercising at the Planet Fitness in Hixson Friday when a manager approached them and told them Amanda would have to hide or remove her weight belt because it was "intimidating" to other members. (Image: Alicia Rogers)

A local story is getting attention Friday after a Hixson woman claims staff at a local gym said her sister, who has Down syndrome, was "intimidating" other members with an article of clothing she was wearing.

Alicia Rogers says she and her sister Amanda were exercising at the Planet Fitness gym in Hixson Friday.

Amanda was wearing a weight belt to help her posture.

Alicia claims a manager approached her, saying Amanda had to take off the belt or put it her shirt because he claimed it was "intimidating to other members." Alicia says the manager told her that was the rule.

"She's 34 years old and people are still trying to bully her and I just feel really helpless," said Rogers.

They left afterward.

Alicia shared a post on Facebook, which has been shared over 1,700 times as of Saturday night.

"I've had a lot of people who are ignorant toward people with disabilities and people that would target her because I guess they see her as weak and wanted to pick on her," said Rogers. "But anyone who knows me - they know you don't mess with my sister."

Alicia told NewsChannel 9 that she and Amanda are both longtime members, having worked out there for at least four years. Alicia says Amanda has always worn her belt there, but has never had a problem until now.

We also reached out to Planet Fitness in Hixson.

They told us that the belt can be worn, but it must be under clothes.

An employee also confirmed they were told by other people that they were intimidated.

Planet Fitness spokesperson McCall Gosselin sent us the following statement, apologizing for the incident:

“We sincerely apologize for the unfortunate incident that took place at our Hixson club. In this instance, a staff member misinterpreted a company policy and approached Amanda about her weight belt in error. While the staff’s actions were not malicious in their intent, we are working closely with the franchise owner to reeducate the staff on our current policies and protocols. We have also attempted to contact Amanda directly, to personally convey our sincerest regrets, and hope to welcome her and her sister back to Planet Fitness in the future.”

We're told that the franchisee has been in touch with Alicia and Amanda to personally apologize and has offered them both lifetime memberships at Planet Fitness. But Rogers says the family canceled their memberships Saturday. They're all searching for a new place to workout.

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