A tweet Saturday from CrossFit founder Greg Glassman that appeared to make light of both the death of George Floyd and the novel coronavirus pandemic resulted in a widespread backlash within the CrossFit community. On Sunday, Reebok announced it was ending its corporate partnership with the popular fitness company, and after some gyms said they were cutting ties to the CrossFit brand, and others said they’re considering doing so, Glassman issued an apology.

Glassman was responding Saturday to a tweet posted by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), in which the research center declared, “Racism is a public health issue.”

“It’s FLOYD-19,” replied Glassman, 63.

That sparked outrage among some owners of CrossFit gyms, or “boxes,” as they’re called, that pay fees of several thousands of dollars annually to license the brand. A few of those gyms made it clear that, as expressed by Pacific Crest CrossFit in Portland, Ore., the tweet was “just the last straw” after they had been long disillusioned by the company’s leadership.

“This is mockery and it is unacceptable,” Pacific Crest CrossFit said of Glassman’s tweet in a statement Sunday. Announcing it was pulling its affiliation, the gym said, “CrossFit HQ and some of its senior leaders have been volatile, condescending, and unforgiving to many people over the years.”

Humble Beast Fitness, a gym in Washington, D.C., that is dropping “CrossFit” from its name, said in a message to its community that it provided to The Washington Post: “As owners and employees of a CrossFit gym, my husband and I have been serving the DC community for the past 6 years. CrossFit has a unique opportunity to recognize racial injustice and address health inequity, yet they choose not to. We have decided to discontinue our affiliate moving forward.”

“It has become evident that our values don’t match those of CrossFit HQ and we are actively taking steps to move forward without their involvement,” another D.C. facility, Balance Gym, announced Sunday. It said it was “deeply disappointed” by recent comments made by Glassman, and also “frustrated from the lack of leadership from CrossFit HQ and their tone-deaf and inadequate responses in addressing the recent crises in the USA.”

Maryland’s CrossFit Silver Spring and CrossFit Primal Energy in Portland, Ore., also said Sunday they are cutting ties with CrossFit.

“We stand with the black community,” CrossFit Silver Spring owner Josh Dempsey said. “The only way to move forward is together.”

CrossFit’s national headquarters could not immediately be reached for comment, but late Sunday the company’s Twitter account posted the following message, attributed to Glassman:

“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.

“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 [IHME] 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,” Glassman continued. “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.”

Earlier Sunday, Glassman had linked to his “Floyd-19” tweet while implying in another post that coronavirus-related quarantines did more harm than good and contributed to episodes of violence during and after protests related to Floyd’s death.

“Your failed model quarantined us and now you’re going to model a solution to racism? George Floyd’s brutal murder sparked riots nationally,” Glassman told the IHME. “Quarantine alone is ‘accompanied in every age and under all political regimes by an undercurrent of suspicion, distrust, and riots.’ Thanks!”

Around the time Glassman sent that tweet, news broke that Reebok was disassociating with CrossFit. A spokesman for the sports-apparel company said he would not comment on the tweets but provided The Post with a statement saying, “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.

“What doesn’t change is our commitment and dedication to CrossFitters and the passionate CrossFit community,” added Reebok, which issued a statement last week in which it said: “Without the black community, Reebok would not exist. We are not asking you to buy our shoes. We are asking you to walk in someone else’s.”

An owner of a gym in Portland, Ore., that is dropping its CrossFit affiliation told The Post he was “never made to feel that I was truly a part of that community, as a black man.”

“In all of the gyms that I was a member at, I was always welcomed, and people were friendly,” Nick Hurndon said, “but in the broader CrossFit community, there was never any attempt to focus on diversity or issues around the black community.”

A 44-year-old who has been involved in CrossFit since 2009 and has owned CrossFit Magnus – soon to be renamed Magnus Strength and Conditioning – since 2012, Hurndon said he was “both not surprised and shocked” by Glassman’s “Floyd-19” tweet.

“It was just completely tone-deaf and showed . . . they are just completely disinterested in black lives, and listening and learning,” he said. Hurndon noted that by the time the tweet was sent, his gym had already decided to unaffiliate with CrossFit and had sent the company a letter to that effect hours earlier.

Kristin Stone, a general manager/senior head coach at Petworth Fitness in Washington, also pointed to years of distress at what she saw as a lack of effort by CrossFit headquarters to promote diversity. The gym, formerly known as CrossFit Petworth, announced Friday that it was removing its affiliation because the “inaction of CrossFit regarding anti-racism work is unacceptable.”

Stone, 32, said of CrossFit’s top officials that she “for years wondered about their stance on representation.”

“There are very few black athletes at the elite levels of CrossFit, and we believe that has to do with the fact that it was started by a bunch of white people,” she asserted. “It has a lack of diversity that, historically, many businesses start with, but they have not acknowledged that. . . . We felt it was disingenuous to say [to our members] we stand with you in anti-racism work while we support this business that does nothing for it.”

Stone described Glassman’s tweet as “incendiary,” and said: “I think his remarks were flippant, and they lacked respect for black Americans. I think it was especially insulting to the memory of George Floyd.”

Another gym that decided to stop paying for the CrossFit brand even before Glassman’s tweet was Portland’s Intrepid Athletics, which said Friday that the company’s “recent silence over Black Lives Matter, despite numerous requests to use their platform to make a difference, is unacceptable.” The gym pledged to use the money it would have spent on its annual affiliation fee instead on “scholarships and donations to local organizations actively doing work to dismantle systemic racism.”

As with Hurndon, Intrepid Athletics pointed to a blog post published last week by Alyssa Royse, the owner of Seattle’s Rocket CrossFit and an influential figure in the community, as a catalyst to their decisions to drop the brand.

Royse shared a letter she sent this month to Glassman and another top executive at CrossFit, Brian Mulvaney, in which she warned the company that it was potentially damaging its brand and alienating affiliates with social-media posts that referred to the coronavirus pandemic in cringeworthy ways, as well as with its silence on the Floyd killing.

“Incoherent brand identity and absent leadership are especially detrimental to a relationship when combined with moral ambiguity,” Royse wrote. “Your moral ambiguity has become very clear in how CrossFit has, and hasn’t, responded in the face of both COVID and the massive social unrest the US is now reckoning with. . . . CrossFit is the only major brand I can think of that has failed to take a stand, make a statement, show support for social justice in general and Black lives in specific.”

In her post, Royse also shared an image of an email she got in response from Glassman, who began it by saying, “I sincerely believe the quarantine has adversely affected your mental health.”

“You’re doing your best to brand us as racist and you know it’s [expletive],” Glassman wrote, according to the image in Royse’s post. “That makes you a really [expletive] person. Do you understand that?

“You’ve let your politics warp you into something that strikes me as wrong to the point of being evil.”

Glassman ended his email by telling Royse, “I am ashamed of you.”

Stone, from the gym no longer called CrossFit Petworth, told The Post: “I’m personally ashamed of the brand that I’ve shared with so many people. To be so dismissive of this as a human rights issue and a public health crisis is wrong.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: