Updated at 1:34 p.m.
An Arlington yoga studio drew criticism on Twitter on Thursday by offering a discount on yoga classes in commemoration of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The owner and her husband have apologized — but have also spouted defenses, conspiracy theories and even a comparison to abusive ex-NFL player Ray Rice.
The Bikram Yoga Arlington promotion, advertised online, said, “Freedom Isn’t Free — And we intend to honor those patriots who have died for our country and morn [sic] the loss of freedom of speech and other rights that died that day.” After that statement, it offered discounts like a week of yoga classes for $40 rather than $50 and a year of unlimited yoga classes for $1,000 rather than the normal price of $1,250.
Right away, Twitter users voiced their disapproval.
@bikramarlington over 3,000 innocent people died 13 years ago and you want to celebrate w 20% off yoga? This is done in poor taste.
— lhmckean (@lhmckean) September 11, 2014
“I didn’t realize people would be so ‘roar,’ you know?” said owner Zahra Vaezi, 33.
“It’s like that man who punched his wife,” she said, referring to ex-Ravens player Rice. “I mean, that’s upsetting. But I think it kind of gets blown out of proportion.”
Vaezi said that her husband, Frank Machnick, came up with the idea, inspired by recent Labor Day and back-to-school specials that she offered at her eight-month-old business.
He was also the one behind the Twitter account, which stood up for the 9/11 promotion at first:
The angry responses continued to pour in.
@bikramarlington No. You wanted to sell something of of the deaths of innocent people. Everyone knows what date it was. It's called "9/11"
— Mike Jasko (@JaskoThe3rd) September 11, 2014
@bikramarlington you should be ashamed. Tasteless…you could have highlighted this day in so many ways but a discount? Disgraceful.
— Anna Roscigno (@lilwolf30) September 11, 2014
@bikramarlington Go negative? You're attempting to make money off a tragedy. That's not 'patriotic' that's straight up greed. You suck.
— Jeremie Jordan (@StarDogCh4mpion) September 11, 2014
Then the string of apologies started. First, “I wrote that stupid post at 1am with yoga brain. I’m sure some of you know what I mean.”
“Have you ever done hot yoga?” Vaezi explained. “It’s such an intense practice that you get put into this zen. You just feel really zen and peaceful and great. … You might go and just drive off and not pay attention to all of your surroundings like you should.
But if you’re still wondering — yes, the promotion is still valid, Vaezi said. “It’s offensive, yes, and I’m sorry. I’m not trying to incite emotion. I just love yoga,” Vaezi said. “It is still Patriot Day. And I feel like if I do take [the discount] off, I would be saying there’s something wrong with it being Patriot Day.”