Mohammed Fall, a 28-year-old former college basketball player and practicing Muslim, has filed a lawsuit in federal court against health-club chain LA Fitness seeking unspecified damages, claiming he was prohibited from praying in the locker room by employees at the Cincinnati, Ohio, location he had been frequenting.
As a senior at Ohio Christian University in 2011-12, Fall was named Ohio Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year and NCCAA Second Team All-American.
Fall joined LA Fitness in 2013, and in the lawsuit he claims he regularly prayed after his workouts in a corner of the locker room. He says he didn’t even kneel or prostrate, simply standing with his eyes closed and reciting his prayer silently to himself.
On Jan. 29, however, Fall claims he was surrounded by LA Fitness employees during his prayer and told to stop. He says no one else was in the locker room. The employees allegedly told Fall that by order from a corporate manager, he could no longer pray in the locker room and that he’d be kicked out of the gym if he did it again.
“How many times do you see a (baseball) batter get into the box and make the sign of the cross?” Fall’s attorney, Tim Burke, asked in a Cincinnati Enquirer article. “It’s not a big deal. Why they would interfere with his right to prayer, which he did quietly, is beyond me.”
Of course there will be people who scoff at Fall’s lawsuit. Some will be motivated by the “religion shouldn’t be shoved down our throats in public” mindset; others will stand by an irrational fear of Muslim Americans “taking over” and “getting their way” instead of assimilating into whatever they consider American culture to be.
But if everything Fall claims in his lawsuit is true, this seems like a simple case of discrimination by the LA Fitness staff that should upset and offend any American who truly cares about the values this country is supposed to be about. The way Fall describes his style of prayer in the locker room — no different visually than somebody meditating, getting themselves “in the zone” for an intense workout, or simply taking a quiet moment of solace — it sounds like his “wrongdoing” was being a big Black Muslim man standing still and silent in the corner of a room.
Unfortunately, because America is America, that is a dangerous and threatening sight to some people.