The Anytime Fitness franchise in Wauwatosa in the US state of Wisconsin was criticised after an image of the workout written on a whiteboard was shared online.
The name of the workout is the same three words black American George Floyd uttered before his death as a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck following his arrest in Minneapolis on May 25.
Drawn on the whiteboard is the silhouette of a person kneeling down. The sign also reads “...And don’t you dare lay down.”
The image quickly spread across social media, with hundreds condemning those responsible.
“Fire the person who thought this was clever or funny. Making light of a man’s brutal murder. Sad sick people,” one person wrote on Reddit.
Others labelled it “racist” and “tone deaf”.
Last week hundreds of protesters marched through the Milwaukee suburb as part of the Black Lives Matter movement fighting racial injustice and police brutality.
Gym owner ‘takes full responsibility’
On Thursday (local time), the gym’s owner John Mathie took to Facebook in a video post to address the issue.
“I share and understand the outrage based on the actions of the past 24 hours.
A trainer of mine put together a workout for ‘I can’t breathe’ and while intended to support the Black Lives Matter movement, it was clearly misguided.
Mr Mathie confirmed he has placed the member of staff on unpaid leave and his role at the business is under review.
He also said all staff, including himself, will attend anti-racism classes.
“I sincerely apologise for what’s happened here... I take full responsibility.”
His comments follow an apology from Anytime Fitness over the incident.
The company released a statement saying they are “profoundly sorry”.
"No matter the intent, we absolutely do not condone the words, illustrations or actions this represents,” it said.
Meanwhile this week an Anytime Fitness gym in Australia was criticised for its controversial sign.
The gym in Tweed Heads, NSW installed a large sign early in June displaying a purposely edited version of the popular call from health authorities for Australians to “flatten the curve”.
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