News and Commentary

UH OH: Peloton Now Blasted For Being ‘Racist,’ Appropriating Culture
SAN ANSELMO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 06: Cari Gundee rides her Peloton exercise bike at her home on April 06, 2020 in San Anselmo, California. More people are turning to Peloton due to shelter-in-place orders because of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Peloton stock has continued to rise over recent weeks even as most of the stock market has plummeted. However, Peloton announced today that they will temporarily pause all live classes until the end of April because an employee tested positive for COVID-19. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Peloton, the fitness company that supplies $2000 “cycle-at-home” bikes to elite spinners, is well over a Christmas incident that left the company suffering under claims of “sexist” advertising, but now, at least one writer wants Peloton to answer charges of racism and cultural appropriation.

Writing for NBC News’ THINK platform, African-American writer David Kaufman claims that, while he’s found his Peloton spin bike incredibly useful during the coronavirus pandemic when most gyms are locked down to prevent the spread of the virus, he’s concerned that the company has a “race problem” and that its mostly white instructors are pigeonholing rap and hip-hop artists and appropriating language more typically associated with black culture in order to encourage Peloton’s mostly white consumer base.

“It’s not that Peloton the company is actively racist or has even failed at being #woke; a quick spin through Peloton’s app or blog reveals that the brand is intentionally including racially conscious content throughout their marketing materials,” Kaufman says.

The streaming workout programs, though, are a different story. “Black instructors offer rides filled with typically “Black” music (rap, Caribbean or hip-hop) while white instructors offer ones with mostly “white” music (rock, pop and heavy metal) — though the thought that white people don’t work out to rap or hip-hop music and Black people don’t use rock or pop music to fuel their sessions in 2020 is laughable,” he says.

“Also curious — and curiously concerning — are the ways in which white Peloton instructors take on the affect of typical African American cultural tropes, using phrases like ‘go gurl,’ or ‘yassss b—-es’ to whip their riders into a frenzy,” Kaufman adds. “Yes, I realize that Black-inflected drag culture is now mainstream thanks to ‘Pose’ and ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and that digital culture can often transcend traditional notions of race, but absent actual Black people, this type of cultural appropriation and tone-deafness feels woefully out of touch at a time when class and race-based inequalities are literally killing thousands.”

Kaufman’s commentary is somewhat ironic, as he acknowledges, given that Peloton is well known as a “woke” company and even went through a major creative overhaul as recently as last December, when Peloton found itself under attack by social justice warriors for a “sexist” commercial that implied a woman should be given the expensive spin bike as a holiday gift to kick off a “fitness journey.”

At the time, Peloton was a relatively niche company, serving largely wealthy, suburban women. Now, though, Peloton is probably much likelier to weather the social justice storm.

After COVID-19 hit, promoting states to lock down venues where community spread of the virus was likely, including gyms and fitness centers, interest in Peloton exploded, and the company is so profitable, it’s rolling out more products, including an “affordable” option for those who can’t shell out $2000 for an in-home fitness system, per Business Insider.

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