CrossFit, founded and lead by Greg Glassman as CEO, is one of the biggest brands in modern sport. In the last 72 hours, the CrossFit, Inc. brand has plummeted from its lofty status of generating an estimated $100M in annual revenue to crashing and burning.
The reason? The brand’s CEO released a racist and rude email on Friday, June 5th, followed quickly thereafter by a racist tweet only 24 hours later on June 6, 2020.
CrossFit’s Founder and CEO, Greg Glassman
The firestorm started on 9:06am on Friday, June 5, 2020, when CrossFit’s Founder and CEO, Greg Glassman sent this reply to a Crossfit affiliate who wrote him an email titled, “CrossFit in the time of COVID-19 and BLM.”
The title of the email explains the sender’s intent, which was to discuss with Greg Glassman the role of CrossFit during the era of COVID-19 and BLM.
This was a reasonable inquiry, given that the company has 15,000+ gyms worldwide who use its branding to represent themselves to the world. This statistic is from CrossFit’s Affiliate page (screenshot taken 11:37am on June 8, 2020):
While you can draw your own conclusions in response to Greg Glassman’s email, publicly stated reactions from CrossFit affiliate gyms included descriptions like ‘gaslighting’, ‘belittling’, ‘rude’, ‘unthinkable’, ‘manipulative’, ‘dismissive’, ‘oblivious’ and ‘racist’.
There were also hundreds of other descriptions, many of which I can’t include here due to the use of expletives.
As was stated by Rocket CrossFit in Seattle, WA:
CrossFit has stayed silent for too long as our country is at a time of reckoning for centuries of systemic racism. They have been called out by countless gyms and athletes and brands alike for their silence.
Perhaps the best description of his email response was to identity it as white fragility. White fragility is defined by the dictionary as: “Defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice.”
Greg Glassman and His Racism in the Era of BLM
In response to Greg Glassman’s email, which rapidly went viral across the web, CrossFit, Inc., released a statement on Facebook on June 5 at 4:27pm. This statement (shown below) also went viral, generating 1,400+ comments.
While CrossFit stated it was “here to continue this conversation”, unless I missed it while attempting to scroll through an ever-growing stream of comments, the company did not reply to any of its affiliates who wrote comments.
While you would assume the story stopped there, it did not. Instead, it escalated. On Saturday, June 6, 2020, Glassman referred to the death of George Floyd—an unarmed black man suffocated to death during a police arrest—as ‘It’s FLOYD-19’.
The tweet was a reply to a post from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that stated: “Racism and discrimination are critical public health issues that demand an urgent response. #BlackLivesMatter.”
I am including an embed of Greg Glassman’s tweet below:
— Greg Glassman (@CrossFitCEO) June 6, 2020
I am also including his tweet as an image, because I suspect CrossFit will ask him to delete it from his account at some point.
While I will leave you to draw your own conclusions, it was stunning to see this appear on his feed on the heels of a rapidly escalating public relations debacle.
The world was already calling him out for racism and white fragility, and he chose to post “It’s FLOYD-19.” Unsurprisingly, this action incited global outrage.
The Functional Fitness Community
How has the functional fitness community, previously known as the CrossFit community, responded?
With protests underway in all 50 states and at least 18 countries worldwide, CrossFit affiliate gyms—and CrossFit athletes and sponsors—are no longer willing to tolerate the CEO’s rude and racist ways. Thankfully, there has been a tidal wave of backlash against Greg Glassman.
An explosive number of CrossFit gyms have been announcing their immediate intent to de-affiliate from CrossFit.
As of this morning, June 8, 2020, the number of gyms who have made public statements about their intent to de-affiliate from CrossFit is in the hundreds. By the end of this crisis, it is estimated that CrossFit de-affiliations could reach as high as 40-50% of affiliates.
The feelings of many gyms owners can be heard in this statement from CrossFit 9 in St. Petersburg, FL:
We vehemently condemn the statements made by CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. We’re disgusted and deeply disappointed in the deafening silence from CrossFit HQ.
Other gyms, like NOVA Strength and Conditioning, a gym near me, saw this bigotry and behavior from Greg Glassman for what it was years ago. The owners of this gym de-affiliated from CrossFit in 2018, because their values of inclusiveness were not being mirrored by CrossFit, Inc.
In other news, Reebok announced it would end its “exclusive 10-year deal as the main CrossFit sponsor and licensee of CrossFit apparel.”
Professional CrossFit athlete Rich Froning, a 4-time repeat winner of the CrossFit Games, chastised Glassman on Instagram to his 1.4M followers saying it is “impossible to stay loyal to leadership who make callous statements that alienate and divide in a time when unity is needed.” Last year’s second place competitor in the CrossFit Games, Noah Ohlsen, announced he would not compete in this year’s games.
Perhaps most importantly, members of CrossFit gyms worldwide are demanding that their boxes de-affiliate from CrossFit.
If you are a functional fitness athlete who has a membership at one of these gyms, I urge you to contact your gym owner(s) immediately.
Remember, you are VOTING with your dollars.
Take action, be the change you want to see in the world and stay on the right side of history.