CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman has stepped down following a backlash to a tweet about George Floyd and the coronavirus pandemic. The tweet created an online storm and resulted in sponsors immediately ending their association with CrossFit, while many of the sport’s top athletes threatened to boycott the CrossFit Games unless there was a change in leadership. Dave Castro will replace Glassman as CEO.

“I’m stepping down as CEO and have decided to retire,” Glassman wrote in an Instagram post on CrossFit’s official page on Wednesday in the US.

Dave Castro named CrossFit CEO after Glassman steps down

“On Saturday I created a rift in the CrossFit community and unintentionally hurt many of its members. Since I founded CrossFit 20 years ago, it has become the world’s largest network of gyms. All are aligned in offering an elegant solution to the vexing problem of chronic disease.”

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Glassman further stated fighting chronic disease was his main goal with CrossFit and he did not directly address the tweets or emails he sent which called his leadership into question.

“I cannot let my behaviour stand in the way of HQ’s or affiliates’ mission. They are too important to jeopardise,” he said.

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A Saturday post by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that declared racism a public health emergency prompted Glassman’s first tweet. He simply replied, “It’s FLOYD-19”.

He then added in another tweet: “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!”

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African-American Floyd was killed by a white police officer, who pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. The death was recorded by passers-by and the video sparked international outrage.

In the US, dozens of cities have been engulfed in protests, some of which have led to looting and fires.

Glassman’s tweets led many CrossFit supporters to call for his resignation and a subsequent apology did little to stem the criticism.

“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,” he wrote just hours after the initial tweet.

“Floyd is a hero in the black community and not just a victim. I should have been sensitive to that and wasn't. I apologise for that. I was trying to stick it to the [Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation] for their invalidated models resulting in needless, economy-wrecking, life-wrecking lockdown.

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“And when I saw they were announcing modelling a solution to our racial crisis, I was incredulous, angry, and overly emotional. Involving George Floyd’s name in that effort was wrong,” Glassman continued.

“It’s our hope that his murder catalyses real change resulting in a level playing field for our black brothers and sisters. 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.”