The founder and longtime CEO of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, has recently come under scrutiny for his response to a statement on Twitter from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, who said that “racism is a public health issue.”
In a follow-up tweet, Glassman said, “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!”
Many people found Glassman’s remarks to be insensitive and offensive, bringing his own personnel character into question, as well as the greater mission of the CrossFit brand.
Glassman’s views were not only outspoken, but they were not reflective of the community he represented. Hours before Glassman’s tweets, he reportedly told gym owners on a Zoom call, “We’re not mourning for George Floyd — I don’t think me or any of my staff are.”
“Can you tell me why I should mourn for him? Other than that it’s the white thing to do — other than that, give me another reason,” Glassman asked a Minneapolis gym owner who had questioned why the brand had yet to release a statement about Floyd’s death.
Reebok and Rogue Fitness swiftly decided that they would no longer be associated with the brand and Affiliate CrossFit gyms, or “boxes” as they are referred to, decided to drop their association with Crossfit on account of Glassman’s words.
In the meantime, Glassman issued an apology that was received as insincere and much too late, via CrossFit’s Twitter account, tweeting “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.” He went on to apologize and explain he was trying to criticize the IHME’s quarantine policies. He ended with: “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.”
While CrossFit did also issue a statement, it didn’t do much to repair the wound opened up by their founder’s comments. In the time that has passed, current and former employees have spoken up to distance themselves from the message that Glassman put out while discussing the negative effects of how it has hurt the community and degraded the brand.
Last week it was announced that Glassman would be selling off the CrossFit brand, stepping away as CEO so it could move on without him and the stain he left behind. However, despite taking a responsible step in the right direction, CrossFit will have much more work ahead of it to repair the relationships with its community, athletes, and employees.
As Brand Champions, it’s not only our responsibility to consider the words we choose to communicate, but also the greater context behind the subjects we speak on. Political commentary isn’t a new decision for brands, especially as we approach presidential elections. But it’s important to note that choosing to engage in political speech could be divisive for a large portion of your community. A lack of consideration for your words can promote ideas that are false, harmful, or misleading of your intent, and choosing to speak on such matters requires due diligence.
Glassman failed as a Brand Champion due to his inability to recognize the harm behind his words or the fact they didn’t represent a greater portion of his community’s views. He not only failed to represent those that have built his brand from the ground up, but he divided the CrossFit brand by abandoning the views of its community and its mission to share their passion for fitness.
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Brooks, Ryan. “The Head Of CrossFit Has Resigned After Telling Staff On A Zoom Call, ‘We’re Not Mourning For George Floyd.’” BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed News, 10 June 2020, www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ryancbrooks/crossfit-ceo-founder-zoom-greg-glassman-george-floyd.
Todisco June 10, Eric. “CrossFit CEO Steps Down After Controversial Tweets About George Floyd and Black Lives Matter.” PEOPLE.com, 10 June 2020, people.com/health/crossfit-ceo-greg-glassman-steps-down-controversial-tweets/.
Gorman, Alyx, and Josh Taylor. “CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman Resigns after Offensive George Floyd and Coronavirus Tweets.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 10 June 2020, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/10/greg-glassman-crossfit-ceo-resigns-george-floyd-protest-coronavirus-tweets-conspiracy-theories.
Wischhover, Cheryl. “Why CrossFit Devotees Leaving the Brand behind Is Such a Big Deal.” Vox, Vox, 12 June 2020, www.vox.com/the-goods/2020/6/12/21289151/crossfit-greg-glassman-black-lives-matter-box-katrin-davidsdottir-games-reebok.
Newby, John. “Former CrossFit Employee Details ‘Troubling Culture’ at HQ, CEO Greg Glassman’s Alleged Misconduct.” Sports, Popculture.com, 13 June 2020, popculture.com/sports/news/former-crossfit-employee-andy-stumpf-opens-up-greg-glassman/.