SHAFAQNA – An American Muslim and former college basketball star who regularly worked out at the Oakley LA Fitness was told by gym workers he no longer was allowed to pray in the locker room, a Monday lawsuit alleges.
Mohammed Fall, 28, filed the suit in federal court against LA Fitness, its corporate parents and four workers at the 4700 Marburg Ave. gym.
The Oakley gym referred a Monday call from The Enquirer to the corporate offices, where a worker provided only a corporate email regarding media calls. That email wasn’t immediately answered.
Mohammed was born in Senegal and raised a Muslim. He came to America in 1999 at age 12. After graduating from Western Hills High, he attended and played basketball at Tiffin University and then Ohio Christian University in Circleville. He captained both teams and was named his conference’s player of the year his senior year.
He joined LA Fitness in 2013, regularly played basketball and lifting weights there. He also regularly prayed after each workout, the suit said, in a quiet corner of the gym locker room. He didn’t use a pray mat or kneel during his prayer, instead standing, closing his eyes and not speaking.
That happened often, the suit noted, until three weeks ago. In a Jan. 29 incident, the suit alleges, Fall was conducting a post-workout prayer quietly in a secluded corner of the locker room when three LA Fitness employees surrounded him and told him to stop. No one else was in the locker room.
“The strange thing is, he did this in a very unobtrusive way. He’s been doing it a year and then this,” Fall’s attorney, Tim Burke, said.
The LA Fitness workers, the suit said, told Fall to never again pray at LA Fitness, saying that decision had been made by a corporate manager who was at the gym that day. Fall believed if he continued to pray, he would be kicked out of the gym and subjected to “harassment,” so he left.
“How many times,” Burke asked, “do you see a (baseball) batter get into the box and make the sign of the cross? It’s not a big deal. Why they would interfere with his right to prayer, which he did quietly, is beyond me.”
Fall seeks unspecified money damages, including punitive damages, and attorney fees.