That led Reebok and other brand partners to distance themselves from CrossFit. Glassman apologized and walked back the tweets on Sunday.
But many gym owners say the tweets were not the only issue — the silence before them was too.
“Watching both the Covid-19 pandemic and then the United States waking up and fighting for social justice in a really big way and watching CrossFit say nothing was really painful,” said Alyssa Royse, owner of Rocket Community Fitness gym in Seattle, Washington.
CrossFit did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Royse changed the name of her gym from Rocket CrossFit to Rocket Community Fitness. CrossFit affiliate gyms pay an annual fee to the company to use the brand in their names and in descriptions of CrossFit-style workout classes, but otherwise the gyms function independently of the company.
“As a brand, Rocket couldn’t be aligned with a bigger brand that wasn’t on the right side of history … It’s this huge global behemoth that just said nothing,” Royse said.
A ‘colossal misstep’
Soon after protests began during the last week of May, CrossFit gym owners and athletes began wondering on online forums when the company would put out a statement.
“Many gyms were emailing and posting about it,” said Lieven DeGeyndt, owner of Petworth Fitness in Washington, DC, formerly Petworth CrossFit.
“We’re not looking to them to lead protests or become an activist, but we were looking for something,” DeGeyndt said. “As a business owner, I understand it’s a challenge, but there’s a line between right and wrong here.”
Royse says she sent executives at CrossFit an email on June 3 explaining her decision to drop the affiliation and calling on the company to speak up.
“I had a long relationship with upper leadership at HQ,” Royse said. “I was really worried that they were making this colossal misstep not only in the arc of justice but in the health of the brand.”
“This is a difficult letter to write, but we wish to inform [CrossFit] and as many other affiliates as we can: The inaction of CrossFit regarding anti-racism work is unacceptable, and as a result, we are choosing to disaffiliate from CrossFit. As a brand that has preached about being ‘for all,’ the deafening silence on current and past issues of racism tells us all we need to know.”
“Members of this community feel neglected, left out, trapped, and hurt. Some are isolated, angry, and confused, while others are actively seeking ways to effect real change. We see you. We hear you,” the statement read.
Lost brand partners
But the following day, June 6, Glassman again drew criticism for several tweets in which he criticized the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s statement that racism is a public health issue.
“Floyd-19,” Glassman replied Saturday.
In a follow-up tweet, Glassman said the health research institute’s coronavirus model “failed,” and he criticized it for modeling 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,'” he tweeted.
Following Glassman’s tweets, Reebok said it would not renew its brand partnership with CrossFit.
“Our partnership with CrossFit HQ comes to an end later this year,” Reebok said in a statement to CNN Business. “Recently, we have been in discussions regarding a new agreement, however, in light of recent events, we have made the decision to end our partnership with CrossFit HQ. We will fulfill our remaining contractual obligations in 2020.”
“Rogue does not support the latest statements made by the CrossFit CEO, Greg Glassman,” the statement reads. “His comments are unacceptable under all conditions.”