National

YMCA won’t let members watch cable news while working out anymore for ‘safety’ reasons

By Greg Hadley

ghadley@mcclatchy.com

People who want to work out at the Greater Scranton YMCA will have to do so without cable news now after the board of directors banned it.
People who want to work out at the Greater Scranton YMCA will have to do so without cable news now after the board of directors banned it. U.S. Navy

In the Greater Scranton, Pennsylvania, YMCA, there’s now one less way to elevate your blood pressure.

That’s because the gym’s board of directors has voted to ban cable news from its building after several locker room and gym disputes over politics and news turned so heated that some members feared for their safety, according to multiple media reports.

In a letter sent out to members, the board wrote that 24-hour news channels like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News have given rise to intense confrontations, which have “raised concerns about the safety, both physically and emotionally, of our members,” per WBRE.

While no physical fights have yet erupted over politics, the center’s CEO said several members have reported feeling threatened after politicial discussions turned “boisterous,” according to the Scranton Times-Tribune.

One member told the Times-Tribune he was present during a locker room argument over cable news that progressed to the point of raised voices and “colorful” language, but did not go any further.

However, that member, along with others interviewed by local television stations, expressed opposition to the decision, saying the board has overexaggerated the problem and is setting a dangerous precedent.

“I think it is probably an overreaction,” member David Dimmick told WBRE.

“I understand why they did it because there was a lot of controversy with a lot of people talking and arguing,” Susan Dimmick told WBRE. “There was a lot of arguing going on, but I don't think it was right.”

“Once you start that precedent, I think it becomes dangerous,” Paul Williams, a longtime YMCA member, told the Times-Tribune.

However, YMCA officials said that while the arguments were isolated incidents, they were acting preemptively to prevent things from getting out of hand. They also pointed to the fact that other 24-hour channels devoted to non-political topics and news programs on broadcast channels were still permitted.

“I've been here three years now and I really didn't hear much about this until six months ago. So, we just want people to feel welcome here and I think this might help,” CEO Trish Fisher told WNEP.

Many have pointed to the 2016 presidential campaign as the source of the growing acrimony between people of different political beliefs. A poll in September found that 70 percent of Americans thought the election brought out the worst in people, and seven percent reported ending friendships over it, per Politico.

When Republican Donald Trump won the presidency, there were widely-reported incidents of hate crime directed at minorities and women, though some have disputed whether these examples actually constituted a statistical rise. Still, according to the most recently available data, hate crimes have been on the rise as of late, according to analysis by Quartz.

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