Last week, REDCON1, a sports supplement company, announced that it would discontinue its support of the upcoming event — also known as the Arnold Classic — as well as all other Schwarzenegger-related events. The move followed an interview from earlier this month where the Kindergarten Cop star and former Governor of California firmly took anti-mask protestors to school.
Speaking with CNN's Senior Global Affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman as part of a virtual event for Vindman's book, Here Right Matters, Schwarzenegger discussed his public efforts to shoot down misinformation surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic amidst rising COVID-19 case numbers due to the Delta variant and vaccine hesitancy.
"There's still people who live in denial, and still people who don't believe in masks," he observed, emphasizing the importance of listening to experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
"There is a virus here," Schwarzenegger continued. "It kills people and the only way we prevent it is: get vaccinated, wear masks, do social distancing, washing your hands all the time, and not just to think about, ‘Well my freedom is being kind of disturbed here.’ No, screw your freedom. Because with freedom comes obligations and responsibilities. ...You have the freedom to wear no mask, but you know something? You're a schmuck for not wearing a mask."
Schwarzenegger's interview quickly went viral and proved controversial among conservative circles. Days after the Aug. 10 interview was released online, REDCON1 announced its decision to pull out of the Arnold Classic, specifically citing his "Screw your freedom" remark. The company's founder, Aaron Singerman, posted a response video on Instagram explaining his decision. "Me personally and everyone at REDCON1 has always loved Arnold," Singerman said. "Over the years, I've overlooked a lot of stuff...because we love him so much."
"When somebody says 'Screw your freedom,' I can't and REDCON1 can't in good conscience continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars sponsoring that person or show," he continued, adding that it wasn't a "partisan" decision. (Prior to founding REDCON1, Singerman was part of Blackstone Labs, which was charged with distributing illegal dietary supplements in a Department of Justice lawsuit. That trial is set to begin in October and Singerman is named as defendant.)
In a statement later provided to Fox News, a REDCON1 spokesperson noted that Schwarzenegger's pro-masking stance wasn't at the root of their choice either. "To be clear we did not pull out of the event because of a mask issue. We understand the importance of public safety as well as the responsibilities all event organizers. These are unprecedented times and we’re aligned with public safety for all. We elected to discontinue support due to Arnold’s comment, 'Screw Your Freedoms.'"
Even before REDCON1 withdrew its sponsorship from the Arnold Classic, Schwarzenegger had sought to clarify his rhetoric. In an Aug. 13 essay for The Atlantic, he described his "Screw your freedom" quip as "a little much," adding: "There is nothing that I’m more passionate about than keeping America great and it’s the only subject that can make me lose my temper."
In the meantime, the Arnold Classic is moving forward with its planned Sept. 25 edition in Columbus, Ohio. In a statement provided to Yahoo Entertainment, Brian Powers, executive director of the Arnold Sports Festival, sought to return the emphasis to the event's competitors rather than the sponsors.
"The Arnold Classic is the world’s most prestigious bodybuilding competition, hosted by its greatest champion," Powers said. "Invited Athletes train for years in hopes of receiving an opportunity to compete on the main stage at the Arnold Classic and we unreservedly reject any attempts to politicize, dilute, cheapen, curtail or otherwise harm this once in a lifetime experience for athletes. We wish Mr. Singerman the best, and we look forward to giving our fans and athletes a world class experience in September, as we have for decades."
And on Aug. 19, the event unveiled Mutant Nutition as the new sponsor for the Arnold Classic, taking a pointed dig at REDCON1 in the press release. "No matter your creed, color, religion, or political beliefs, the Arnold Sports Festival welcomes you with open arms," the release read. "Recently, however, one of our sponsors decided that they could no longer support the Arnold Classic after Arnold Schwarzenegger said that freedom comes with responsibility."
"We thank Mutant for their long-time dedication and support of the Arnold Classic, our athletes, fans and the sport of bodybuilding, especially during these difficult times caused but the coronavirus pandemic," Schwarzenegger remarked in the press release. "But we know that the Arnold Classic will be back bigger, better and most importantly safer than ever thanks to partners like Mutant."