CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman has stepped down amid global backlash for comments he made about George Floyd’s death.
The decision comes after a growing number of fitness brands, operators and athletes publicly parted ways with the $4bn fitness company, in response to a tweet Glassman made, which took aim at lockdowns that have been enforced to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
Responding to a tweet made by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington that read: “Racism is a public health issue”, Glassman replied with: “FLOYD-19”, in reference to the coronavirus.
He is also reported to have called an affiliate “delusional” for questioning why CrossFit had been silent on the killing of Floyd by police in the US, as well as making other disparaging remarks about Floyd and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.
Glassman had since apologised, saying CrossFit “will not stand for racism”. However, global sportswear brand Reebok was quick to end its 10-year relationship with the cult fitness concept, which involved being the main CrossFit sponsor and licensee of CrossFit apparel, stating:
“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.”
With more than 300 affiliated gyms across the world also disassociating themselves from the company, and professional CrossFit athletes including Rich Froning and Tia-Clair Toomey speaking out against, not only Glassman but top-level leadership in general, on Tuesday 9th June Glassman released a statement announcing his decision to retire.
“I’m stepping down as CEO of CrossFit, Inc., and I have decided to retire,” wrote Glassman.
Before explaining: “On Saturday I created a rift in the CrossFit community and unintentionally hurt many of its members…those who know me know that my sole issue is the chronic disease epidemic. I know that CrossFit is the solution to this epidemic and that CrossFit HQ and its staff serve as the stewards of CrossFit affiliates worldwide. I cannot let my behaviour stand in the way of HQ’s or affiliates’ missions. They are too important to jeopardize.”
Despite Glassman’s resignation, Tom McAdam co-founder of Crossfit City Road (now City Road Fitness) in London, UK, which has also taken the step of dis-affiliating from CrossFit, still believes there is a lot of work for CrossFit to do if it is to survive.
“In a wider sense, the CrossFit community will survive in one form or another,” McAdam told Welltodo, stressing that its strong community of people and gyms has always been independent of the organisation to a certain extent, with affiliates independent in the way they run their gyms and what they do.
However, now that the organisation has shown to be not sharing the values of its community, the question will be whether the brand or name of CrossFit will survive. Or if it will be a more independent thing — CrossFit by name but not tied to a particular organisation?
“If the organisation is to continue, it will need to take some drastic steps, such as getting rid of all top management, not just Greg Glassman,” McAdam told Welltodo.
“This isn’t just about the statements Glassman made but the complete silence over the issue of Black Lives Matter and racial justice — for a health and wellness company not to address the issue of equality and racial justice is a huge mistake because racial inequality is a public health problem.
“There were other people involved in that, so it will take some big measures,” he added.
Having been part of the CrossFit world for over 4 years, McAdam and his co-founders, who were due to launch a new concept Binary Fitness before the coronavirus hit, are now looking forward to moving forward with their own vision of health and wellness once the fitness market opens back up.
For CrossFit meanwhile, the 15-year-old brand will now have Director of CrossFit Games Dave Castro at its helm, who said he hoped to “to do right by affiliates, trainers, athletes, and other members of the CrossFit community around the world.”
But, with sponsorship cut, affiliates continuing to sever ties with the company and more importantly the very spirit that holds the community together badly damaged, its survival is hanging in the balance.