SoulCycle instructor apologizes for getting COVID-19 vaccine, which sparked backlash

Erin Donnelly
·4 min read

A star instructor for the trendy cycling workout brand SoulCycle is backpedaling after being criticized for getting the COVID-19 vaccine under the pretense of being a teacher.

On Friday, Stacey Griffith — a top fitness coach in New York City who, according to a recent Vox report, makes at least $800 per class — shared footage from her trip to Staten Island to get the Moderna vaccine.

SoulCycle instructor and author Stacey Griffith has apologized for getting the COVID-19 vaccine by claiming eligibility as a teacher. (Photo: Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for American Express)
SoulCycle instructor and author Stacey Griffith has apologized for getting the COVID-19 vaccine by claiming eligibility as a teacher. (Photo: Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for American Express)

“Now I can teach @SoulCycle with a little more faith that we’re all gonna be OK if we get the [vaccine],” Griffith, whose celebrity clients have included Kelly Ripa and Madonna, told her 64,000 followers on Instagram.

The SoulCycle instructor received backlash after posting about her vaccination. (Screengrab: Instagram)
The SoulCycle instructor received backlash after posting about her vaccination. (Screengrab: Instagram)

It didn’t take long for many of those followers to chide the 52-year-old author of Two Turns from Zero for bypassing elderly and high-risk individuals who have yet to be vaccinated.

“Let’s celebrate that we are making the world safe for in-person spin class in the midst of a global pandemic,” read one comment, from a woman who shared that she and her wife, a cancer patient, were still months away from being eligible for their own shots. “What’s left of any respect that I had for Soul and the leaders it celebrates is done and gone.”

Griffith initially defended her choice, telling the Daily Beast that as a teacher she fell within New York City Health Department’s 1B eligibility, which includes health care workers, residents over 65, grocery store employees and teachers — the kind that oversee classrooms and daycares, not workout studios.

“All teachers are eligible to apply for the vaccine,” Griffith told the Daily Beast on Friday. “My post today was to show my confidence in the system, in our government, and I hope everyone can at least feel more at ease knowing I went through the process!”

She added that she owed it to her community, “in my profession of health and wellness as a teacher,” to get vaccinated in order to help reduce transmission within her classes.

“Having me vaccinated can stop the short spread within groups!” Griffith told the publication. “I function as a common point for many overlapping people. In my profession of health and wellness as a teacher, it’s my priority daily to keep my community and their respiratory systems operating at full capacity so they can beat this virus if they are infected by it. I can only teach to them if I am healthy myself.”

She made the same point to a critic on Instagram who questioned her judgment.

“Keeping you all safe is my top priority, keeping my elderly riders safe is my top priority,” she wrote. “I see hundreds every week, I think it’s fair to say it was a good decision.”

But the backlash persisted, with critics arguing that the best way to protect the elderly was to not skip ahead of them in the vaccination line, which has been plagued by long waiting lists, shortages, confusion over online forms and scheduling hiccups. Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos, meanwhile, posited that few elderly or high-risk riders were likely to be found in Griffith’s SoulCycle classes right now, given that they’re currently held outdoors in the cold.

Griffith ultimately deleted her post, telling the Daily Beast, “I hate controversy. It saddens me that people go so dark and mean, I’m really just trying to do the right thing and be safe.”

On Monday, Griffith — whose high-profile romance with fashion designer Michelle Smith of Milly fame has been featured in the New York Times — shared a more contrite message.

“I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for my recent action in receiving the vaccine,” she wrote in an Instagram post, for which commenting has been disabled. “I made a terrible error in judgment and for that I am truly sorry.”

Her apology comes on the heels of a statement from SoulCycle clarifying that instructors should not pursue vaccinations on the sole basis of being “educators.”

“Stacey Griffith operated in a personal capacity in applying for a NY State COVID-19 vaccine,” a SoulCycle spokesperson tells Yahoo Life. “SoulCycle plays no role in organizing or obtaining vaccinations for instructors or other employees nor do we encourage any of our SoulCycle employees to seek vaccine priority as educators.”

Griffith has not yet responded to Yahoo Life’s request for comment.

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

Read more from Yahoo Life:

Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.