In the wake of a controversial tweet by CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman, and radio silence during an incredibly turbulent time in our country, many of you are probably asking this question. I’ll do my best to give you an insider’s perspective on what happened, and where things are headed.
Let’s start with a rough timeline:
On June 5th, Alyssa Royse, the owner of Rocket CrossFit in Seattle wrote a long email to Greg Glassman. I’ve seen Alyssa post for years in our Affiliate owners Facebook forum, and without going into too much detail I’ll just say that she is much further left than I am, and there’s nothing wrong with that. All voices should be heard.
It was clear that she put A LOT of time and effort into the email she wrote, questioning CrossFit’s HQ silence on George Floyd, lack of guidance during COVID-19, and offering her help. Greg’s response was blunt; “I believe the quarantine has affected your mental health”, and “I’m ashamed of you”.
When Alyssa posted the exchange in the affiliate forum, I wasn’t surprised at Glassman’s response, he has a history of shutting people down he doesn’t agree with, rather than engaging in a dialogue. I didn’t agree with all the points Alyssa made, but I thought it deserved a more careful treatment than Glassman gave. You can read the whole blog post here.
On June 5th, after Alyssa posted the exchange in the affiliate forum, it was clear that many other owners shared her concerns. The CrossFit Games Facebook page shared a post meant to spark discussion, asking “What can we do to better serve the Black community in CrossFit?”. Notably absent: three important words; “Black Lives Matter”. Worth noting, June 5th the NFL released a video of commissioner Roger Goodell saying those three important words, and many more.
On June 6th the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research center, tweeted, “Racism and discrimination are critical public health issues that demand an urgent response,” along with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Glassman responded: “It’s Floyd-19.”
This triggered an immediate backlash; withdrawals from sponsors (Reebok, Nobull, Rogue, and more), calls to boycott the CrossFit Games, contingent on major changes at CrossFit HQ by high-profile CrossFit athletes and coaches, and at this point over 500 CrossFit affiliate owners who have cut ties. There’s now a petition circulating calling Glassman to resign with close to 7K signatures, including mine, as of now.
Is Greg Glassman a racist?
I don’t know. A vague, tone-deaf tweet is not enough to accuse someone of that in my opinion. The silence from CrossFit HQ and Glassman on George Floyd’s murder and the racial unrest in America, is DEAFENING, while much larger corporations have come out on the right side of this issue. In fairness, I understand (although do NOT agree with), the difficult position it puts a company in that built it’s reputation off training police and the military.
My mom has been an activist since the 60s, marched on Washington D.C., and saw Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. My dad’s father was the first doctor in their small town in Kansas to hire black people in his practice and lost clients because of it. I spent almost half my life breakdancing, most of my friends are not white. I’ve spent a lot of time in neighborhoods that people like me should not have felt comfortable in, and always felt safe. I owe who I am to black and brown culture and I will never forget that.
At the same time, we are all victims of our conditioning. I’ve been watching black and brown people largely portrayed as criminals on the news my whole life, and listening to them largely portray themselves as criminals in the Hip-Hop/Rap music that I listened to growing up. So when I see a group of black or brown kids walking down the street my first though is, they must be up to no good. I am not proud of that reflexive thinking, and I hope that one day I can get away from it, but I feel it’s important to be honest and open when talking about race. Implicit bias is real and we need to be aware of it.