The masses of CrossFit athletes who have publicly condemned CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman or even boycotted the Games, have proven than the sport’s values are worth more than cheap words and they should be praised for their stance.
Glassman replied to a tweet by the Institution for Health Metrics and Evaluation that discussed the link between public health and racism. The CEO wrote “It’s FLOYD-19” and adding how their model for lockdown had failed, referring to George Floyd who was killed by a white police officer in the US and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
He later apologised for using George Floyd’s name to make his point, but doubled down on his suggestion that lockdown was a bad idea, adding his tweet “was a mistake, not racist but a mistake”.
But the damage was done. Two of the main sponsors, Rogue and Reebok, had already withdrawn from the sport. But more importantly, dozens of athletes took to social media to speak out against Glassman or even boycott the CrossFit Games until there was a change in leadership.
So many sports profess “values”. The only problem with values, is they are very vague, no one can fully articulate what they are and usually they are dropped as soon as there is something on the line.
Rugby, for example, prides itself on sportsmanship and acts shocked when a crowd boos a kicker, even though most rugby crowds will boo any kicker if the match is on the line. Trail running praises its own amateur values, whatever that means, even though the top runners are already full-time professional runners.
CrossFit’s values are centred on community. It is easy to profess community when all it means is a high-five to a fellow athlete that has just finished a workout, or to cheer on a competitor. But CrossFit athletes across the globe have now shown they are willing to stand by their community, even when at a real and tangible personal cost.
Noah Ohlsen, second at the 2019 CrossFit Games, and Chandler Smith, one of the sports most high-profile black athletes, both said they will not compete at the 2020 CrossFit Games unless there is change in leadership. Three-time winner of the CrossFit Games Tia-Clair Toomey said her “future with CrossFit is unclear and depends on the direction of HQ”. The most decorated CrossFit athlete Rich Froning said he would no longer follow a sport lead by Glassman. Other high-profile athletes are taking a similar stance.
They have put their money where their mouth is, and have shown they take the sport’s values seriously and will not accept any breach of them, no matter the cost.
And the cost is real – many have a chance to win the 2020 CrossFit Games, and with it the US$300,000 prize money. They all have sponsorship deals intertwined with their positions in the sport. If they do not compete, will the deals still materialise?
And all of this is in the midst of the financial uncertainty of Covid-19, when there are no other competitions to enter to win money or boost their profile while companies’ sponsorship budgets are shrinking. Who could blame them for staying silent?
During the most uncertain economic times in generations, these athletes proved they are prepared to put their careers on the line because of the importance CrossFit places on community above all else. For that, they should be praised to the hilt.
As for CrossFit Inc., it is time for them to show the same commitment to the community. So far, all they have done is allow Glassman to tweet his non-apology via the official account. They need to heed the call from the most important people in their sport – crossfitters of all abilities – and sack Glassman and condemn his comments.
Only then, will the tone from the top match the rest of the sport in welcoming anyone, from any background, who wants to join a CrossFit gym.