close
close

#GymCreep: Copper Sky gym brother banned for offensive behavior in viral trend

A man accused of staring at at least five young women at Copper Sky has been banned for life from going to the city's public gym after reports surfaced that included vile and filthy descriptions of sexual harassment.

The disturbing incidents, which have drawn police attention, are a symptom of the growing #GymCreep trend that has exploded on TikTok, garnering a whopping 100 million views in the U.S. in the past year.

The latest trend is encouraging women who have endured being followed or groped at the gym – 9 out of 10 incidents go unreported, according to studies – to finally speak out, as a handful of annoyed fitness enthusiasts have done in reports sent to InMaricopa Last month.

The victims identified Copper Sky member Robert White as a threat during several encounters between May 2023 and March, until city authorities began investigating the alleged sex offender.

Weight watchers

Copper Sky, known as a haven for local gym rats, became a nightmare for a young woman last May when White followed her to her car and asked her if she had ever seen a “black cock” before, according to a March 11 report.

White even followed her after she got into her car and ordered her through the driver's window to “pull down her pants and show him her pussy,” according to the report.

Another young woman said White harassed her at the gym for several months, forcing her to change her workout schedule in January because White “constantly stared at her during workouts” and eventually approached her and repeatedly demanded that she send him nude photos of herself.

On March 1, White confronted her in the parking lot, looked her up and down and said, “This is why everyone wants to f*ck you,” the report said.

Another woman also changed her workout schedule to avoid seeing White because “he would constantly come up behind her and talk about her butt and what he would do to it,” among other comments too vulgar to repeat, a city official reported.

The report also mentions a teenager who stopped coming to the gym altogether after White told her to “show him her kitty.”

White's training partner eventually ended the friendship, admitting to a city official that his former buddy “should have been kicked out a long time ago.”

City Recreation Director David McLeish said March 6 that he planned to suspend White's membership as city officials began investigating at least five sexual harassment complaints filed against White by women.

On May 3, Community Enrichment Director Quinn Konold confirmed InMaricopa“This membership has been terminated.”

Five days later, Konold also confirmed that police were involved, saying, “Maricopa Police have been notified.” At the time of publication, White had not yet been charged with a crime.

Misty Bitter, fitness programmer at Copper Sky, said in a March 11 email that many of the young women endured harassment for several months before speaking out.

Even after they did it, “they were all afraid of retaliation,” Bitter said. “These women are very anxious.”

Misconduct

A study by Women's Running in Boulder, Colorado, found that more than three-quarters of women felt uncomfortable exercising in public gyms.

More than half of female gym members (56%) have experienced harassment while working out, according to a survey of 3,774 American gym members by Nicholas Rizzo, Boston-based fitness research director at Danish fitness think tank RunRepeat.

Rizzo found that over 91% of harassment incidents in gyms go unreported.

Female gym members are more than two and a half times more likely to be victims of harassment than men: one in ten say they have been groped, one in six have been subjected to verbal harassment and almost a third have been stared at.

A third of female gym members have changed their routine to avoid their tormentors, while a quarter have changed gyms or stopped using gyms altogether.

“Harassment is a widespread problem in gyms that disproportionately affects female gym members. Although many experience this problem, less than one in ten members report their harassment,” Rizzo said. “It is the responsibility of gyms, health clubs and the like to provide their members with a safe environment in which to exercise and enjoy the benefits of exercise.”

Accordingly the Copper Sky Code of ConductVerbal harassment, disrespectful behavior, intimidation, the use of foul language, and sexual misconduct are all offenses punishable by expulsion from membership—and White is guilty of each of these offenses if the allegations against him are true.

These are five of 22 documented examples of criminal misconduct. Other crimes include drug abuse, theft, vandalism, possession of weapons, trespassing and fraud.

“To ensure that all members have a positive experience, we place the utmost importance on safety and take our customers’ safety concerns seriously,” said McLeish, the top gym brother InMaricopa May 7. “We encourage everyone to inform staff immediately if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.”

Staff will then determine the appropriate course of action depending on the severity of the incident. This may mean escalating the incident to higher management or informing park rangers or even the police, as was the case with White.

“Resolution of an incident could include expulsion from the facility if necessary,” McLeish noted, referring to White's ban from the public fitness center. “We also encourage patrons to notify police if they suspect a crime has been committed.”

Insights into the viral trend

The #GymCreep trend this year has made headlines across the BBC, Newsweek, The guard And USA todaySo much so that the slang term has evolved from colloquial language to an accepted term in academic circles.

“I'm so glad that a notorious gym creep has been banned in Maricopa,” said Dr. Leilani Carver-Madalon, a professor of communications at Maryville University in Town and Country, Missouri, on May 9.

Carver-Madalon has been following the #GymCreep trend closely and tells InMaricopa it is “an important topic”.

Those participating in this trend document the difficulties they face in the weight room and on the treadmill, such as being stared at, followed or groped, all in the hopes of inspiring women across the country not to remain silent when they experience similar unpleasantness.

“If you can record what's happening, you can show others, 'Look, this is happening. This is real. I'm not making this up,'” Carver-Madalon said. “This can be a great way to make men aware of how they can be creepy when they don't intend to be, but also to make gyms aware of how they can encourage women to report creepy men at the gym.”

However, a study from Stanford University's Department of Psychology found that posting justified outrage on social media can seem excessive and unfair, and the feedback loop of online shaming can create feelings of sympathy for the perpetrator.

Others believe the trend has simply gone too far.

Los Angeles-based fitness trainer Joey Swoll recently sparked controversy online when he started engaging with TikTok videos of women tagged #GymCreep. He said there was a “big difference” between “looking or glancing” at a woman and “being a real creep,” sparking controversial reactions across social platforms.

The best course of action, Carver-Madalon says, is to do what five women in Maricopa recently did: think twice about jumping on the TikTok trend and instead focus on long-term solutions to the problem, such as reporting harassment to the appropriate authorities.

“We never want to make someone who has been harassed feel like they are doing something wrong because the harassment is real,” she said. “It's not their fault that these creeps follow them everywhere.”

However, she also sees advantages in the viral trend: “Social media is a powerful tool and we can use it to raise awareness and hopefully teach men that they can act like obnoxious guys in the gym, even if they don't intend to.”

Code of Conduct

Misconduct is not permitted at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center. Any member found violating the rules will be suspended, banned, or trespassed at the discretion of the City Council. The City defines misconduct as behavior that violates the rules, is illegal, dangerous, or violates individual rights. There are 22 documented examples of misconduct:

  • Breaking the rules
  • Verbal abuse or harassment
  • Bullying, intimidation, threats and fights
  • Disrespectful or disruptive behavior
  • Theft, vandalism and garbage
  • Illegal possession or use of weapons
  • Alcohol, tobacco or drug consumption
  • Sneaking into facilities or refusing to leave
  • Damage or mistreatment of equipment, such as dropping weights or hanging from a basketball hoop
  • Use of swear words, obscene gestures, gang signs or colors
  • Taking photos or videos in toilets, changing rooms or childcare facilities
  • Listening to music without headphones
  • Loitering or soliciting customers
  • Fraud
  • Monopolization of facilities such as weights or the basketball court
  • Inappropriate or missing clothing
  • Consumption of food, chewing gum or drinks other than water
  • Inline skating, skateboarding, scootering or cycling indoors
  • Animals that are not service animals
  • Public sexual acts and voyeurism
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Use of the fitness area under 12 years of age, unsupervised under 16 years of age or without wristband under 18 years of age