Greg Glassman, CEO of CrossFit HQ, takes heat for his recent comments on Twitter about George Floyd’s death. He writes a viscous letter to Rocket CrossFit. Massive brands drop their sponsorships, and CrossFit affiliates renounce their affiliation with CrossFit. Here’s what happened.
I don’t usually blog about political issues. I love CrossFit. So much so that I left my career as an attorney to open a gym that provide CrossFit classes. Like so many others, CrossFit taught me how to lift properly and how to become really, really strong. It taught me how to be safe when teaching others.
It’s not easy to speak out against a company and brand you love. But Alyssa of Rocket CrossFit did. Petsworth CrossFit did. Nick Hurdon of CrossFit Magnus did. And so did thousands of other people on Twitter and Facebook. Their message, our message is clear, we know the CrossFit method works, but we will not tolerate bigotry, hate, and poor leadership. Things have to change.
Round 1. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Tweets the following message on their account: “Racism and discrimination are critical public health issues that demand an urgent response.”
Racism and discrimination are critical public health issues that demand an urgent response, wherever they occur. #BlackLivesMatter
Read our director's statement: https://t.co/kZkP2s82oV pic.twitter.com/n6qbWy1afO
— Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) (@IHME_UW) June 4, 2020
Greg Glassman’s replies to IHME the following two words:
That was “all” that he said. No further context was provided. The CrossFit community responded swiftly and decisively expressing their opinion of disgust.
On June 7th, Glassman followed up with, ” Your failed model quarantined us and now you’re going to model a solution to racism? George Floyd’s brutal murder sparked riots nationally. Quarantine alone is “accompanied in every age and under all political regimes by an undercurrent of suspicion, distrust, and riots.” Thanks!”
While his actual meaning is hard to understand, the CrossFit community read between the lines. Major players in CrossFit’s merchandise team starting distancing themselves from CrossFit. Reebok writes, “Our partnership with CrossFit HQ comes to an end later this year. Recently, we have been in discussions regarding a new agreement, however, in light of recent events, we have made the decision to end our partnership with CrossFit HQ.” Business Insider. A counterpoint to this of course is the Reebok had been winding down its connection with CrossFit in the past two years.
Nobull publicly condemns Glassman’s statements:
Rich Froning sums up the internal conflict he is having nicely in his Instagram post. In case you don’t know, Rich Froning is the Mike Tyson of CrossFit. The greatest men’s champion of our sport (certainly one could argue that Matt Frasier is equally great). Whether best or second best doesn’t matter. If anyone should be loyal to CrossFit, it’s him. After all, he owes much of his fame and fortune to CrossFit. But he too had to speak out against what CrossFit leadership has done.
For those of you who don’t know, a major underlying issue in Greg’s comments revolve around the fact that African Americans participation in CrossFit has been historically, extremely low. But why is that? That’s a complicated question to answer. I researched this issue quite a bit two years ago. The most comprehensive answer I found was this Reddit thread. It’s a long read to be sure, but what makes it very informative is that many black people answered the question why they don’t participate in CrossFit. This includes Black people that CrossFit and those that don’t.
That post from Reddit was from three years ago. Things have not changed. r/CrossFit has banned me several times for posting any information they don’t agree with. CrossFit is in the wrong on this issue.
But what exactly is the racial issue here? The owners of CrossFit Petsworth said it eloquently in their Instagram slide show renouncing their affiliation to CrossFit. They are right — CrossFit needs to do better.
And it is time for things to change. CrossFit has lessons that can help everyone. CrossFit has done more for women in lifting than any other brand of fitness. Equality in prize money is rare in other forms of fitness (e.g. Olympia, WNBA, etc.) CrossFit should save its legal budget, and put it’s money where it really matters. Into the hands of the people and communities that need it.
Round 2: Rocket CrossFit wrote Glassman (and CrossFit HQ) a very lengthy letter, which raises several points. The actual letter is probably 10 pages long, so I’m going to summarize the issues that Alyssa raised.
Alyssa of Rocket CrossFit said that is has trouble with it’s branding because it doesn’t want to adopt everything that CrossFit says. My thoughts: that’s why we are Sand and Steel Fitness and not Sand and Steel CrossFit.
Alyssa of Rocket CrossFit next says that CrossFit doesn’t mean anything as a brand, because so many CrossFits are different. She draws a comparison to McDonalds. My thoughts: CrossFit has always been an “anti-franchise.” It’s the franchise model that shouldn’t have worked, but it did. Yes all CrossFits are different, but they have a lot in common. A CrossFit is not like an Orange Theory, La Fitness, or F45. CrossFitters have a lot in common and that is true across boxes. They share passion for improvement, patience to learn, and understanding that better performance come from better movement.
Alyssa takes issue that her boxes success is because of her hardwork not CrossFit HQ. My thoughts: that’s definitely true. Being an “affiliate’ by itself provides nothing. Your success is built or lost by the knowledge of your coaches, your quality in customer service, your ability to spend money wisely, and your attention to detail. Building a successful CrossFit box is hard. CrossFit’s model assumes that some will fail. And the failure of those business help improve the model. A great plan, unless your box is one of those that fails.
Alyssa takes a lot of issue with distinguishing her CrossFit box from the reputation of CrossFit. I get that. When you call yourself a CrossFit, you get the good and the bad.
Alyssa makes a powerful point about how hard COVID-19 hit CrossFit nationwide. She attacks CrossFit for not being a leader at this time. I agree with that. I called CrossFit out on that on Facebook recently. I wish CrossFit would have done more. Supportmybox was a joke. CrossFit touted the 2.5 million dollars they raised, but the individual box less than $200 on average. Wait… what? Yeah 2, 500,000 divided by 18,000 affiliates is $187 per affiliate. Lies, damn lies, and statistics.To make matters worse, with so many people are getting sick with Coronavirus and CrossFit businesses are failing … CrossFit is still picking fights with Big Soda. CrossFit views on soda are just not that important right now. Don’t drink sugar, we get it. It’s bad that market happiness and Christmas with their product.
Alyssa also makes the intelligent argument that CrossFit is heavily engaged in legal battles to defend our rights to teach fitness. And she also says, “but that benefits Joe’s Fitness just as much.” She’s right. Fitness as a industry needs leadership, and rather than burning bridges we need to come together.
Alyssa brings up points about whether Greg Glassman believes COVID-19 is real. From what I have seen, there is a large difference between what Democrats and Republicans believe about COVID-19. I don’t know how Glassman votes, but I would suspect he is strong Republican. And so, denial of the impact of COVID-19 is not surprising or unique to Glassman. Our own President of the United States has been very slow to react to it.
Alyssa brings up that lately CrossFit’s mantra has simply been “Off the Carbs, off the couch” and she recognizes it’s not that simple. She brings up the socio-economic problems that cause obesity. For so many, it’s not easy or simple to lose weight. It’s not easy or simple. And it gets harder every year. There is much more money in making you fat than there is in making you fit. I’ve seen client obsess about there being some sucralose in a protein bar. That same client chooses to eat 3 cups of rice and beans for dinner with 2 beers. Being fit is hard — people don’t like hard. So CrossFit is promoting an over simplified message. I see the same thing from all other fitness companies. If it was easy, we’d all be Games-level athletes.
Alyssa calls out CrossFit directly for not taking a stand on the Floyd murder. She argues that not taking a stand is taking a stand. She implies that the stand CrossFit therefore took is that CrossFit is somehow OK with Floyd’s murder. While CrossFit has nothing to do with the protests nor the murder, CrossFit as a community leader should be taking a stand on important socio-economic situtations. The days when companies can remain agnostic to the issues their clients care about are long gone. I hope to God that every American was shocked and appalled when they watched what happened to Floyd. Regardless of what you believe amounts to racially motivated behavior or a lack of police controls, what happened to Floyd was wrong. It is up to us citizens to vote and put people in power who will enact reform. It’s not up to CrossFit to do this. We Americans, allowed this to happen because we put the wrong people in power. It’s our country, and we have to show up and vote to make changes. Democracy does not work when its citizens grow complacent and allow those in the office to abuse power.
That’s the first few pages of the letter. But what I think “set” Greg off was that Alyssa believes that Rocket CrossFit is very important to CrossFit’s brand. Her letter mentions this point in several different ways. She says that she really is the “Conscience of CrossFit.” Most of what Greg’s responded to came from Alyssa’s statements to the effect that losing Rocket is going to be a really big deal to CrossFit. As you will see in Greg’s letter below, he doesn’t see it that way. Ironically enough, it is Greg’s letter that will set forth a domino of companies withdrawing from their CrossFit sponsorship deals.
This brings us to the seminal issue at hand, Greg’s reply to Alyssa. Alyssa’s letter, while somewhat self-aggrandizing, was written in a very respective tone. It wasn’t a personal attack against Glassman or CrossFit. It wasn’t rude, and it was not unprofessional. At it’s very core, it’s a call to action and maybe a veiled threat that CrossFit Rocket will leave behind the CrossFit brand if things don’t change. Alyssa wants change, a consistent brand, and better leadership from CrossFit. She wants CrossFit to take a stand on the Floyd murder, and to respond to the real issues that affiliates are dealing with right now.
And I agree with her. I certainly respect her decision to try to get CrossFit to step up. I respect her more for taking Glassman’s reply and making it public.
I don’t profess to know why CrossFit didn’t do more to help gyms like Rocket CrossFit or Sand and Steel Fitness during the COVID-19 crisis. But what I do know, is that CrossFit has taught me more about how lift and train members safely than any other brand of fitness. I have 30 certifications, and CrossFit’s certifications are some of the best. I have hired hundreds of coaches, and CrossFit coaches are almost always the best coaches I can find. So I have a lot of respect for what CrossFit has done … and I wouldn’t be the coach I am today if it weren’t for Greg Glassman. But, what Greg Glassman said in response to her email and how he responded … that I cannot agree with. Here’s what he said to Alyssa:
Greg’s response to Alyssa is wrong on every level. It’s wrong professionally, it’s wrong as a leader, and it’s wrong as an influencer. You can tell that Greg was very offended by Alyssa’s letter, but it certainly seems like there is a history of things that Greg didn’t like about Rocket CrossFit. The CrossFit community is asking Greg to step down as CEO, because CrossFit is bigger than Glassman. No one can argue he formed it, but maybe he is no longer the best person to run it. Let’s cut to the chase, his email is abusive. Not in a physical sense like Choudhury Bikram, but an abuse nonetheless.
As an attorney though, I see this social media context coming up over and over again. We judge companies and people by individual statements said in isolation. That’s mob justice. Courts don’t work that way for a reason. Judges don’t pass sentencing and judgement based on a single social media video or one email. Some people don’t have the time nor the interest to fully read through an issue before forming an opinion. And that also needs to change.
So if anyone has more information about Greg’s comments regarding Alyssa’s alleged “brand wizardry,” “brand us a racist,” or “certainly manipulative” please put some comments below. As I mentioned before, I don’t know anything about Alyssa or Rocket CrossFit. Glassman’s email is offensive and downright disgusting to read. Greg, Alyssa is your client and a human being. It’s wrong to treat people that way, and you are way out of line. Whatever justifications you may have for being upset with Alyssa does not entitle you to put into question her mental health or call her “evil” for questioning your leadership
And rather than being abused in secret and in silence, Alyssa chose to publish this whole thing. Alyssa, thank you for doing that. But as a consequence, companies like Rogue Fitness and affiliates like Magnus CrossFit are bailing out. In the end, this will only hurt the CrossFit brand. And so maybe it is time, like Bikram Yoga, to consider separating the man from the method.
Greg, the CrossFit community wants to hear what you have to say. We want to hear it all — why is Alyssa being manipulative? Why do you think she’s evil? Yes, Alyssa certainly called you out on some big issues. And yes, whether you want to accept it or not, she’s right. And it’s fine you disagree with her, but what justifies you to respond the way you did? What has Alyssa done to you or CrossFit to warrant your reply?
And to anyone who is reading this post who has more information on this topic, and especially CrossFit HQ, speak up in the comments below. I want to know the full story, not just what I can read on social media.
That was end of my post at 1:30AM on June 7th, but while I was writing this post, it was almost as if Greg heard me asking above questions. His response on Twitter is as follows
.@CrossFitCEO: "I, CrossFit HQ, and the CrossFit community will not stand for racism. I made a mistake by the words I chose yesterday.
My heart is deeply saddened by the pain it has caused. It was a mistake, not racist but a mistake.
— CrossFit (@CrossFit) June 8, 2020
Greg’s Comments continued, “Floyd is a hero in the black community and not just a victim. I should have been sensitive to that and wasn’t. I apologize for that. I was trying to stick it to the
for their invalidated models resulting in needless, economy-wrecking, life-wrecking lockdown. And when I saw they were announcing modeling a solution to our racial crisis, I was incredulous, angry, and overly emotional. Involving George Floyd’s name in that effort was wrong. It’s our hope that his murder catalyzes real change resulting in a level playing field for our black brothers and sisters. Please hear me when I say, we stand by our community to fight for justice. I care about you, our community, and I am here for you.”
To me, personally that apology means a lot. But he owes Rocket CrossFit an apology as well. People make mistakes and say things they shouldn’t — Glassman is owning that on his twitter comments. However, many in the CrossFit community don’t believe his apology. They believe he is only apologizing, because he is seeing companies like Magnus and Invictus de-affiliate and sponsors are leaving.
@tedlogan1989 writes,” He made a mistake. Let’s all move on. #CrossFit is a great brand and great community. Not every mistake warrants the death penalty.”
@Zack Quilici writes,”1/2 Am I going to be the ONLY one to give this man some grace? Drew Brees said a remark that he later regretted. Same here. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and His teachings teach me to not only forgive, but not to judge.”
@TheFierceDiva1 writes, “This sounds like one of those “sorry you were offended” apologies. ”