Four-time winner of the CrossFit Games, Rich Froning, has said he can no longer follow a sport that preaches division, after a controversial tweet by the CrossFit CEO. Other high-profile athletes have boycotted the CrossFit Games until changes are made to the organisation’s management.
On Saturday, CEO Greg Glassman tweeted “Floyd-19” in reply to a post from the Institution for Health Metrics and Evaluation about the link between racism and public-health, adding that their model for lockdown had failed.
George Floyd was killed when a police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes during an arrest on May 25. The death caused protests across the US against systemic racism, despite the Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing rules.
Glassman has since apologised for using Floyd’s name to make his point, but insists it was not a racist tweet.
Froning took to Instagram to condemn the tweet. He said: “The comments this weekend only divide. At this time, in the world we live in right now, we don’t need comments or people to divide us even further, we need to come together. I feel like if I was continue to follow along with someone who was going to preach division, and not bring us together, I would be going against who I am as a person.”
Froning, an important figure in the world of CrossFit, stopped short of announcing his departure from the sport, but indicated he could sever his ties with the body. CrossFit gyms pay a fee to be affiliated with the brand, and Froning’s comments appear to indicate his influential gym, Mayhem, will end its affiliation.
“I want to say thank you to all our Mayhem family and anyone who supports us, we will continue to be part of the community that is inclusive, that is uplifting and we hope you will be to, but we cannot and will not stand with the comments made by Greg Glassman this weekend,” Froning said.
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I’m not really sure how to start this. Loyalty is and always has been one of the values I hold strong to and have been anchored in throughout my life. My personal definition of loyalty takes into account and considers imperfection, making mistakes, asking forgiveness, and even showing grace to others who can never seem to get it right. However, my definition of loyalty does have firm boundaries. CrossFit has been something I’ve felt loyalty towards over the past 10 years. While I’ve struggled with some decisions made by CFHQ over the last couple of years and what I’ve felt like have personally alienated some of the people who sacrificed and helped grow its brand. That is nothing compared to what has happened the last couple of days and has made it impossible to stay loyal to leadership who make callous statements that alienate and divide in a time when unity is needed. When I really sit and reflect it hasn’t been CFHQ that I have been loyal to, but the community that supports inclusivity, fitness for all, and health. We will continue to be a part of that community but can no longer be loyal to someone or something that is so far from my own values. While I’m considering what our next steps are we cannot and will not stand with these comments or beliefs.
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Froning said that he is “loyal” to CrossFit, but that to him CrossFit is not the CEO or the organisation, but the people and the community.
Two of the organisation’s main sponsors, Reebok and Rogue, both withdrew from CrossFit following the CEO’s comments.
Reebok cut its ties completely, while Rogue has removed CrossFit’s logo from its annual Invitational competition and is considering a course of action depending on how the organisation responds to Glassman’s tweet.
Chandler Smith, one of the sport’s most high-profile black athletes, said he will not compete in the 2020 CrossFit Games until changes are made, along with a picture that read “I’m out”.
“I have yet to speak on anything going on for fear of retribution and must remain apolitical due to the nature of my job,” Smith wrote on Instagram.
“This decision puts me in a very vulnerable position with both work and my desired future career as a [CrossFit Games] athlete. However, I do not believe choosing to avoid participation in this year’s event is a violation of duties: to my job, to the sport, or to my ethics.”
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Until changes to @CrossFit are made, I will not be participating in the 2020 Games. I have yet to speak on anything going on for fear of retribution and must remain apolitical due to the nature of my job. This decision puts me in a very vulnerable position with both work and my desired future career as a @CrossFitGames athlete. However, I do not believe choosing to avoid participation in this years event is a violation of duties: to my job, to the sport, or to my ethics. It is my hope that others join me in applying pressure to HQ in order to improve the organization we love and make it better going forward. “I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards—and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.”
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Noah Ohlsen, who finished second at the 2019 CrossFit Games, said his participation in the 2020 Games will be contingent on changes being made to CrossFit: “Right now, I’m taking action. The repercussions of this could be huge. I’ve weighed them and my belief in this is stronger than their potential outcomes.”
Katrin Davidsdottir, the 2015 and 2016 CrossFit Games champion, posted on Instagram that she was “ashamed, disappointed and angry”.
“I haven’t had much time to process this, organise my thoughts or speak to those involved so for the time being I am going to keep it at this. I don’t know what this means for myself or the sport. But for now: I know this is NOT RIGHT and that needs to be said,” she added.