CrossFit Brand Might Be Dead – but Don’t Punish Affiliates

This has been…quite the weekend for the CrossFit community. I’ve struggled with whether or not to post anything. But if there’s a chance that I can use my voice for good, I will. So I’m speaking up, and hopefully it will help make a difference in the CrossFit world.

CrossFit’s Silence Is Deafening

Before the weekend even began, CrossFit was already on shaky ground with Black athletes and supporters. CrossFit remained silent throughout the murder of George Floyd and throughout the protests and civil unrest that gripped the United States last week. On Friday, finally, The CrossFit Games posted on its Facebook page. This might have been brushed off as “too little, too late,” but ultimately it wouldn’t have delivered a death blow to the brand.

Or maybe it was definitely too little, too late.

Alyssa Royce, the owner of Rocket CrossFit, attempted to reason with CrossFit, Inc. In a blog post, she explained why she wrote to CrossFit HQ. The very well-written and well-thought out letter she wrote detailed why she believed CrossFit needed to take a stand, as a company, and how not doing so would hurt not only affiliates but also the brand as a whole. Greg Glassman, the CEO of CrossFit, wasn’t having any of that. His response was rude, curt, and all the things you absolutely should not do when responding to someone who pays you thousands of dollars in affiliate fees every year. Needless to say, Rocket is relaunching as Rocket Community Fitness.

WODDITY has also written a post about why it will no longer support CrossFit. I highly recommend reading this.

Greg Glassman: Tone-Deaf or Racist?

But then Greg Glassman, the CEO of CrossFit, Inc., had to hop on Twitter. Whether he was trying to be funny (he wasn’t funny) or trying to make a point, it came across as extremely tone deaf in light of everything going on in the U.S. Here’s a screenshot:

Is there anyone in their right mind who thinks this is okay? I’ll play devil’s advocate for just one minute here: maybe Greg Glassman is really angry that he’s seen affiliates have to shutter for COVID-19 lockdowns. He feels like we were misled about the fatality rate and infection rate of the disease. That in no way excuses trivializing what is definitely an issue in this country – namely, racism.

As the CEO of a $4 billion – that’s “billion” with a “B” – brand that likely rakes in $100 million annually for HQ, he should know better. I’m not even going to talk about COVID-19, by the way. But I will say this about Greg Glassman’s response:

It. Was. Wrong.

He responded very poorly to Ms. Royce, and he responded very poorly on Twitter. He tried to be funny, or tie in COVID-19 to what we can all agree is a pretty heinous crime, and it minimized the experiences of Black athletes like the men and women I work out alongside at my box and Black gym owners like Mettle Fitness in Chicago, owned by Jason Burns, or Clockwork CrossFit in Houston, owned by Sid Steen.

I don’t speak for Black people. I can’t for even a moment pretend to know what anyone else is going through right now. I speak for myself, a white woman living in suburbia, a woman whose biggest worry when she gets stopped by the police is if she really was going 65 in a 45 mph zone. I will never have to worry that, if someone sees me running through their neighborhood, they’ll try to shoot me.

But as a white woman, I’m outraged that, in a time when we need to pull together more than ever and have hard conversations about racism, the CEO of an organization that could bring us closer together is choosing to divide us.

CrossFit Affiliates Shouldn’t Have to Suffer

Unfortunately, Greg Glassman’s actions are going to reflect negatively on the tens of thousands of affiliate owners who just want to run their businesses. This isn’t the first time good old Greg has used social media to screw his affiliates. You’d think that he’d want to see them succeed so he can keep collecting those affiliate fees, right?

But no. What worries me is that people who aren’t in the CrossFit community are going to shy away from affiliates because of what Greg Glassman has said. I don’t know all box owners, but most of the ones that I have met are incredible human beings who just want to help others be fitter and healthier. They don’t deserve this.

I will continue to attend classes at my box, Clear Lake CrossFit, because I support the owner, the community, and the wonderful, supportive environment. The affiliate owners are not to blame.

Anticipating the Fallout

Maybe more boxes will stop paying their affiliate fees and reclaim the CrossFit name. As it stands now, several affiliates are denouncing Greg Glassman’s actions:

  • CrossFit Severance is considering ending its affiliation and calling for Glassman’s resignation.
  • Jason Khalipa’s box, NCFIT, is ending its affiliation with CrossFit.
  • CrossFit Petworth is now Petworth Fitness.

As of this morning, over 100 affiliated boxes are ending their affiliation. Several big name brands, including Reebok (which has canceled negotiations to continue sponsoring the CrossFit Games), are ending their partnerships with CrossFit, Inc.

There are a bunch of CrossFit athletes who are speaking out against Greg Glassman’s statements, too, including Katrin Davidsdottir, Brooke Wells, and Rich Froning. Chandler Smith and Noah Ohlsen have decided not to compete in the Games. This list keeps growing, and I can’t keep up.

Ultimately, Greg Glassman’s Tweets and CrossFit’s silence are the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Affiliates and athletes have been dealing with entirely too much “bull in the china shop” rhetoric from Glassman, and CrossFit, Inc.’s complicity with it. And when you add in the response to Ms. Royce, the Tweets, the non-apology on Twitter – we’ve had enough.

The non-apology.

Greg Glassman must step down. Maybe CrossFit as a brand can be saved if he does.