Glassman was replying to a health research institute’s declaration on Twitter Saturday that “racism is a public health issue,” when he tweeted, “It’s FLOYD-19.”
By Sunday, gyms across the country were dropping affiliations with the brand that cost them thousands of dollars annually; as of Tuesday evening, one informal count provided to The Washington Post put the number at well over 1,100. In addition, the athletic apparel company Reebok ended its corporate sponsorship and Rogue Fitness, a supplier of equipment, said it would remove the company logo from a 2020 event.
Many gym owners took to social media to make it clear that, as one facility put it, the tweet was “just the last straw” for them, following years of disillusionment with CrossFit’s corporate leadership. Owners also expressed disgust with what they saw as CrossFit’s unacceptable silence over on issues of racial justice in the wake of the death of Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white police officer.
Adding to the furor was a BuzzFeed report Tuesday which claimed that Glassman told some owners, “We’re not mourning for George Floyd,” in a Zoom call Saturday a few hours before his tweet.
At the same time as it posted Glassman’s retirement announcement, CrossFit released a separate, lengthy statement in which it apologized for his “incredibly insensitive and hurtful” actions and said, “We failed catastrophically by not effectively communicating care for the Black community, all as the online world was watching and experiencing extreme pain.”
The moves come after more than a week of corporate statements, Instagram posts and CEO tweets following the massive protests sweeping the country, as companies voice their opposition to racism and support of the Black Lives Matter movement amid escalating pressures from consumers and employees.
But as the statements have piled up, many on social media have called for companies to do more than offer statements about standing against racism or posting a hashtag with a plain black image on their feed.
“People don’t want to hear words — they want to see action,” said Karen Boykin-Towns, a senior counselor for the communications firm Sard Verbinnen & Co. who is also vice chairman of the NAACP national board of directors.
Besides cutting business ties, companies are making donations to civil rights organizations, finding ways to support black-owned businesses or saying they will do more to promote diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Uber said in a statement it will charge no delivery fees for orders from black-owned restaurants and plans to offer discounted rides to black-owned small businesses. PwC said it is creating a staff advisory council on diversity and inclusion and will share its diversity progress and goals with employees starting this summer. And the beauty site Glossier said it is donating $500,000 to organizations focused on racial injustice as well as another $500,000 in grants to black-owned beauty businesses.
Humble Beast Fitness, a gym in Washington, D.C., that is dropping “CrossFit” from its name, said in a message to its community Sunday that it provided to The Washington Post: “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.”
Another D.C. facility, Balance Gym, announced Sunday: “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.” It said it was “deeply disappointed” by recent comments made by Glassman, and “frustrated from the lack of leadership from CrossFit HQ and their tone-deaf and inadequate responses in addressing the recent crises in the USA.”
“We stand with the black community,” CrossFit Silver Spring owner Josh Dempsey said while also confirming he was cutting ties with CrossFit. “The only way to move forward is together.”
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Earlier today, I wrote about my disgust with the remarks made by Greg Glassman and the complicit silence of CrossFit Inc. But being disgusted is not enough. We will no longer affiliate with a company that does not share our values; a brand that doesn’t show a sincere compassion for all people, especially the marginalized among us. Black lives matter. But dropping our affiliation is not enough. We need to do more to address the issues of inequality and racism. As a business, as a community and as individuals, It's on us to do better. We will rebrand, we will grow together, and we will continue to build a supportive community with a deeper commitment to active anti-racism. Please reach out with any concerns, input or thoughts as we move forward. This is your community and your voice matters. Much more to come, Tom
Late on Sunday, CrossFit’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.
“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.
Rogue Fitness, the supplier of strength and conditioning equipment, said on Facebook that Glassman’s comments “are unacceptable under all conditions” and that “the future is dependent on the direction and leadership within CrossFit HQ. Rogue has been the equipment provider since 2010 and we believe it is part of our DNA. We hope there is a path forward.”
A spokesman for Reebok, Jason Silva, said the company 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 in May 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.”
Dorothy Brown, a law professor at Emory University’s school of law who studies economic injustice, said that seeking distance from a company CEO who makes comments like Glassman is “low-hanging fruit,” and that companies also need to be transparent about their own diversity issues and what they’re doing internally to change.
“What are the statistics on black executives? Have they done audit studies to see that their black workers are being paid what their white workers are?” she said, noting that nearly all of the corporate actions she’s seeing still feel “performative.”
"I think they expect their performance to be enough because in the past, their performance has always been enough. We’re in a different moment,” she said. “Now people are saying ‘okay, but what about you? What are you doing to make people in your institutions feel like black lives matter?' ”
One response she did think was powerful was Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian’s announcement Saturday he had resigned from the company’s board and had urged directors to name a black candidate to replace him.
Ohanian, who is married to tennis star Serena Williams, said on Instagram he made the decision “as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: ‘What did you do?’ ” He also said he would pledge $1 million to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp and use future gains from his Reddit stock to “serve the black community, chiefly to curb racial hate.”
An owner of a gym in Portland 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.
In a blog post published last week, Alyssa Royse, the owner of Seattle’s Rocket CrossFit and an influential figure in the community,
shared a letter she sent 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. “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.”
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.
Anthony Johndrow, an adviser on corporate reputation issues, said he’s been getting a lot of questions from companies about what they should do after they make a statement in support of the protests.
"It’s imperative — yes — they need to be ready to act, but the next step has got to be listening. These companies are for the most part run by people who are not black Americans,” he said. “They need to listen to black Americans, they need to understand what’s expected of them.”
He said they should expect more scrutiny of their own practices of advancing and employing black workers, and of how they are spending their lobbying dollars. “It’s not a one and done. This is not something that’s going to be fixed by writing a check.”
Replacing Glassman as CEO is Dave Castro, who has served as the director of the CrossFit Games.
“Our shared bond brings together millions of people with differing opinions, viewpoints, and experiences,” Castro said in a statement. “Friction is inevitable. Common ground, mutual respect, and fellowship must also be inevitable.”
An owner of a gym in Rockville, Md., Tough Temple’s John Weeks, said his box was “encouraged" by Glassman’s retirement and thought the CrossFit founder was “accurate in his statement indicating he had caused divisions in the movement and the organization.”
Weeks added that he hoped Castro "will be able to unite the divisions Glassman created and operate CrossFit as the inclusive and positive community that we all love.”