TROY, MO (KMOV/CNN) – A piece of clothing is causing contention at a gym in Troy, MO.
A former member, who’s also a military serviceman, said he was asked not to wear a shirt supporting President Donald Trump.
"This country is free,” Staff Sgt. Jake Talbot said. “That's what I fight for, is freedom."
Talbot is a veteran of the U.S. Army, the Kansas City Star reports.
He said he used to stay in shape between tours by working out at CDY Fitness, a Troy gym he belonged to for eight years.
But after what happened Sunday morning, Talbot said he won’t go back.
Talbot said he was wearing a shirt displaying the message “Trump for President 2016” when the gym owner approached him and politely asked him not to wear it to the gym again, saying the shirt was offensive to herself and others.
"She said that it’s racist, and it represents racism, and that's when I was like, 'Ah, you're done,’" he said.
Talbot said he finished his workout before posting his frustrations to Facebook.
“I freakin' hate that word whenever people use it. It's thrown around way too loosely,” he said in the Facebook post. “It's 2019, get the hell over it. It's not racism.”
The gym’s owner said the shirt made several members feel uncomfortable. She posted a message Sunday saying the gym shouldn’t be “a political forum for anyone.”
In another Facebook post, the gym owner defended her stance, saying she’s against hate, no matter the financial consequences.
"You seem to be seeing these things more often in the age of Trump, there's no doubt about that," attorney Lynette Petruska said.
Petruska said the gym’s owner was well within her legal bounds.
"The business owner really didn't violate any First Amendment or anti-discrimination law," she said.
Talbot believes the situation could have been handled differently.
“It doesn’t bother me to wear the shirt. It’s not going to affect me. It’s just the racist part that she brought up, I just do not like that,” he said.
Talbot said another gym in the area reached out and offered him a year membership for free.