The exodus of people distancing themselves from CrossFit Inc., the company that owns the name “CrossFit”, a sport featuring functional fitness competitions and gyms based around related exercises, now includes the majority associated with the sport.
Major sponsors, including Reebok and Rogue Fitness, star athletes such as Rich Froning and Tia-Clair Toomey, and more than a 110 former affiliated gyms across the world have created a cavernous divide between the sport itself and the private company that runs and controls the brand, the name “CrossFit” and the CrossFit Games.
Everything stems from a tweet CrossFit Inc. founder and chief executive officer Greg Glassman sent out over the weekend, writing “FLOYD-19” in response to a Twitter post by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) which featured a picture that stated “Racism is a public health issue”.
The original post, which stated “racism and discrimination are critical public health issues that demand an urgent response #BlackLivesMatter” linked to the IHME’s director’s statement in which he condemns the recent events and states the IHME “can and will do more to illuminate the public health impacts of systemic racism.”
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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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Glassman added a second comment to his original post, taking a further shot at the IHME, stating: “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!”
There are also other reports of Glassman’s questionable conduct, including a piece by Mike Young – who owns a CrossFit affiliate – that ran on Medium on June 8 detailing a Zoom call with a number of other affiliate owners, CrossFit headquarters staff members and Glassman. Young said the call quickly “went off the track” as Glassman stated he believed the coronavirus originated from a lab in China and that he does not “mourn the death of George Floyd”.
“The things Glassman was saying were among the most inappropriate statements a CEO of a multinational, multimillion-dollar company could possibly say in a time of national unrest over racial injustice,” Young wrote.
This is further to an email Glassman sent to another affiliate owner, as first reported on the Morning Chalk Up, who he called a “really s***** person” for assuming she was the “conscience of CrossFit” after she stated she would be pulling the affiliation from her gym due to CrossFit’s “incoherent brand identity”.
Where this leaves the sport is in a precarious situation. What do people who do CrossFit now say they do, and how do they identify with a sport whose name is tarnished by the tweets of its founder and CEO? The CrossFit community finds itself in a situation in which there is little precedent.
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My participation in the 2020 @crossfitgames will be contingent upon major changes being made. I LOVE competing, I LOVE training, I LOVE being able to challenge myself and become better from it. I also LOVE people. This is probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. It’s been weighing on me for days. I’ve consulted many of my closest supporters. All of that said, I’ve decided that I cannot, in good conscience, compete during this time for a company that hasn’t shown themselves to have values that I align with. I’ve been talking a lot about this movement and my strong desire to stand up and fight for equality. 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.
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The National Basketball Association, the world’s most famous and powerful basketball league, does not own the rights to the word “basketball”. Much like any major sporting association, the controlling leagues have no bearings over the name of the sport they play.
With CrossFit it is different, because CrossFit Inc. and majority shareholder Glassman have control of the name and have been known to heavily protect the brand’s image, even through litigation.
Everything changed over the weekend and the name CrossFit has been dragged through the mud. But the sport will ultimately go on, its staying power (it was founded by Glassman in 2000) is unquestionable. Functional fitness, or community fitness as some former “boxes” are now calling themselves, has been a great way for many people to stay healthy and find an accompanying community, while elite athletes have shown there is definitely an audience for high-level competitions.
This weekend the 2020 Rogue Invitational, which is in essence a CrossFit-styled event, will take place online featuring the biggest names via a live YouTube link, but this is where things get complicated.
On Rogue’s website you will not find a single mention of the sport its athletes will be doing this weekend. The only mention is in “Equipment for CrossFit®”.
What the sport now has to reckon with is how it continues without its catchy, self-identifying name, or if the brand itself is even salvageable. Surely if Glassman were to step away from CrossFit Inc. and new leadership was able to set a new course in winning back athletes, sponsors and gyms, this story might have a happy ending.
The 2020 CrossFit Games, spearheaded by Dave Castro, are most likely a bust. They are scheduled to take place in California in August, with a scaled-down version featuring 30 men and 30 women, but now you would be hard-pressed to find any marquee athlete who will say unequivocally they will be competing.
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A running list of athletes choosing to not participate in the 2020 CrossFit Games: @blacksmifff @nohlsen @kristieramo ____ A running list of brands stepping away from CrossFit Inc: @reebok @romwod @nobullproject @roguefitness @fitaid @btwbapp @beam ____ A running list of gyms de-affiliating from CrossFit: @ncfit_collective @crossfitinvictus @linchpinathletics @dekacomp @karhustrength @dogtownsc Terminus CrossFit Collaboration Motown CrossFit South Brooklyn @crossfitaviator @deucegym @12labours @vampersfitness CrossFit Flushing @streamline_fit CrossFit Central ATX @workhardlivefit @cueseattle @bricknewyork @bricklosangeles @crossfitqueens @crossfitunionsquare CrossFit Veni Vidi Vici @6s.fitness @communityunifyroanoke CrossFit RVA @champlaignevalleycf Training Think Tank @deriveathletics @crossfitpolaris @hog_town_fitness @tidalcrossfit @crossfitcentral CrossFit DC @tiltshiftlab @ao_athleticacademy @crossfithorsepower @crossfithighvoltage @crossfit_cove @inversion_west @inversion_yl @inversion_dtlb CrossFit Intensify @pendulum.fitness @resistanceathletics @crossfitforest @crossfitmaumelle @belmontheightsfitness @carouselcrossfit @tectoniccrossfit Q-town CrossFit @polskystrength @immortalfitness CrossFit Edina @guerillafitnessmontclair @paradisocommunity @cf.glendale Hardware Strength and Conditioning @torrance_training_lab @goliath_athletics @westfitnesssantacruz @sofitathletics CrossFit RDU CrossFit Laurel @crossfitspringfield @poundstrong CrossFit Grandview @treelinecrossfit @crossfitdynamix CrossFit Battery @iron.regime @polaris_fit @poweredbymovementchicago @sparkcrossfit @clermontfit.co @subufit @gateway_fitnessobsession @surfsidefit.co @strangestrengthandconditioning Transcona Fitness @crossfit_darkside @crossfitorale @crossfit323 @cfamped ____
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There is also CrossFit’s newly launched Sanctional season, which was cut short this year due to Covid-19. Dozens of events across the world pay CrossFit a fee to use their name, associate with the brand, and be selected as one of the competitions for athletes to qualify for the CrossFit Games.
CrossFit went through a serious process of decentralisation over the past few years, shuttering most of its staff and outsourcing its major competitions. Now with affiliates dropping by the minute, it appears more and more that CrossFit Inc. and CrossFit the sport and subsequent community are two entirely different things.
If Glassman digs in and refuses to step down, we could be in for a bumpy ride when it comes to anything associated with the word CrossFit.