Suit: LA Fitness Won't Let Me Pray in Locker Room
'I felt afraid for my life,' says Mohamed Fall of confrontation at gym
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2015 10:59 AM CST
Members show up to work out on Aug 5, 2009, at the LA Fitness in the Great Southern shopping center in Bridgeville, Pa.   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(Newser) – When he was a star basketball player for Ohio Christian University, where he was known as "Mo Fall," Mohamed Fall prayed in the team's locker room before and after he played, per WCPO. And, as a practicing Muslim, the 28-year-old says he's been following the same prayer routine in empty corners of the locker room at the Cincinnati LA Fitness where he's worked out since 2013, the Los Angeles Times notes. That is, until Jan. 29, when he says three managers confronted him over his religious practices and told him he'd "no longer be allowed" at the gym if he kept up the prayers, per a lawsuit filed yesterday. In it, he accuses the California-based chain of infringing on his civil rights and singling him out for his Muslim faith. "I'm not going to lie to you, I felt afraid for my life," Fall tells WKRC of the January encounter.

Fall's lawyer tells the Times his client's prayers were "widely known" and that "nobody had an issue with it." The suit adds that Fall doesn't wear religious garb, use a mat, or make "audible noises" while praying, which Fall tells WKRC takes about five minutes. Fall, who says he's seen other patrons making the sign of the cross, wants to ensure "this doesn't happen to another person, whether [you're] Islam or Christian or whatever religion." The executive director of the ACLU Ohio branch tells the Times, "If I were standing in line at Target and put my hands together and started muttering the 'Our Father,' I don't think they could throw me out. I find LA Fitness' behavior to be pretty perplexing." Fall still goes to the gym, but his lawyer tells WCPO that "the experience hasn't been the same since. He's constantly looking over his shoulder."