‘Screw your freedom’: Bodybuilding icon Schwarzenegger loses sponsor over ‘un-American’ Covid rant backing masks, vaccines, Fauci

‘Screw your freedom’: Bodybuilding icon Schwarzenegger loses sponsor over ‘un-American’ Covid rant backing masks, vaccines, Fauci

Arnold Schwarzenegger has lost a high-profile sponsor and enraged members of the bodybuilding community after calling people who do not become vaccinated and wear masks "schmucks", telling them to "screw your freedom".

The outspoken former governor of California has been publicly disowned by numerous well-known fans and abruptly dropped by one of his backers after insisting that people should wear face coverings and take jabs to ease the pandemic, comparing protective measures to stopping at traffic lights.

Hollywood hulk Schwarzenegger was on uncompromising form when he was asked for his views on donning masks in the US, expressing his bafflement at "people who don't believe in masks, people who say you don't have to do social distancing and all this kind of stuff."

"I just think people ought to be reminded, over and over, that the experts are saying that we have to wear masks – especially when you are indoors," he ranted to Alex Vindman, a retired US Army lieutenant colonel who was the Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council.

"There is a virus here, it kills people, and the only way to prevent it is to get vaccinated, to wear masks, to do social distancing, washing your hands all the time.

"Not just to think, 'well, my freedom is being kind of disturbed here.' No: screw your freedom, because with freedom comes obligations and responsibilities.

"We cannot just say, 'I have the right to x, y and z.' When you affect other people, that is when it gets serious. It's no different than a traffic light. We put that there so that someone doesn't kill someone else in an accident.

"You cannot say, 'no-one is going to tell me that I have to stop here at this traffic light. I'm going to go straight through it.' Then you kill someone else and it's serious.

"It's the same with the virus: you put the mask on because then, when you breathe, you can't infect someone else who then gets sick and die."

Aaron Singerman, the boss of fitness empire Redcon1, swiftly announced that he would be withdrawing backing from iconic annual US bodybuilding showpiece the Arnold Classic.

"We've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars being a top sponsor of the event, and this year the exclusive sponsor of the webcast, but we can't in good conscience continue to support and be involved with someone who has such diametrically opposed beliefs," the businessman told his following of more than 161,000 on Instagram.

"For the last 15 years, I've been attending the Arnold Classic, and for at least a decade I've been a sponsor of the contest. I've loved Arnold as long as I remember, and credit him for my initial interest in bodybuilding and fitness. I've looked at him as a role model.

"A guy who had nothing and no advantages, who never made an excuse, and created tremendous success. He became an icon based on his work ethic, his charisma and his grit.

"It's with a heavy heart and some genuine sadness that [we have] decided to discontinue any and all support for the Arnold Classic and the other Arnold-related events around the world.

"Anyone who says 'screw your freedoms' is un-American, and Redcon1 is a patriotic, pro-freedom brand. We support freedom of choice. We don't want Arnold censored or canceled. We just can't support his opinion with our dollars."

Multiple Mr Universe Calum von Moger, who once played Schwarzenegger in a film, agreed with Singerman. "I’ll always remember the Arnold that inspired us to train hard, believe in ourselves and follow our dreams," he told his following of more than 3.2 million.

"But I can no longer support the Arnold that speaks to us today. I say, fight for your freedom."

Schwarzenegger supporters dismissed Redcon1's departure as a "blip" for arguably the best-known bodybuilder in the world, with some pledging to boycott the brand in support of the Austrian's forthright views.

"Retweet if you're proud of Arnold for standing tall and having the guts to call a spade a spade," said one account supporting president Joe Biden's Democratic party, endorsing former Republican Schwarzenegger.

The 74-year-old's Instagram account was inundated with rebukes when he repeated his description of people who do not wear masks as "schmucks", and four-time World's Strongest Man Brian Shaw said the remarks "did not sit well" with him.

"Today is a very sad day for me as I had to take down the poster of Schwarzenegger on the wall of my gym," Shaw told his following of more than 1.4 million. "I have had a poster of him in my gym since I started training.

"He has the freedom to say whatever he wants and that’s part of being an American citizen... freedom didn’t come free and I will always stand for freedom."

Dr Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, has consistently earned a mixed response for urging people to become vaccinated – and Schwarzenegger clearly backs him.

"There is misinformation out there," he said. "Fauci has been studying this for his entire life. Why would you not believe someone like that?

"And there are so many other experts and scientists out there. I believe them and I follow them very carefully. We all have to work together on this.

"We have to come together rather than saying 'according to my friends, this is a free country and I'm not going to wear a mask.'

"Yeah, you have the freedom to wear no mask – but you know something? You're a schmuck for not wearing a mask because you are supposed to protect your fellow members around you. It's that simple."

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Hugely-followed real estate mogul and sales training expert Grant Cardone pointed to Schwarzenegger's success since he moved to the US as a 21-year-old in 1968.

"This [success] would never have happened to you in any other country," claimed Cardone. "Freedom, baby – American freedom.

"Freedom, my friend, and what happened to you? All those scripts got to your head? Spent too much time as a governor?

"America is a place where anything can happen because we've got a freedom of spirit. We ain't schmucks – we're Americans."

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