CrossFit Inc and (now former) CEO, Greg Glassman came under fire a few months back for comments made regarding the highly publicized death of George Floyd. Since the incident, several other cases of Glassman’s brash and often inappropriate behaviour have surfaced in the media. This has resulted in a number of affiliates (including Hybrid Fitness) to end their affiliation with the organization, seeing Glassman’s conduct as a clash of values with those of the former partners. But was the minor exodus enough?
The young(er) population who make up the majority of CrossFit affiliates and membership come from a generation of change, justice, and inclusivity. These are positive and much-needed values that all people should strive to uphold. But it is easy to speak of moral value when you don’t have anything on the line or any ‘skin in the game.’ When it comes to making a sacrifice in the name of justice, most CrossFit affiliates sat down quietly in their seats. Some made social posts about how ‘CrossFit is not us’ or some form of social and racial unity, but at the end of the day, most decided to keep their affiliation, quietly.
This is a significant theme you see within many industries and inside the people who run them. Cries for change and social justice when it’s easy and fashionable to do so, silence and retraction when your ass has to be put on the line. No company was talking about race when it may have hurt the bottom line, but as soon as racial equality became ‘mainstream’, big brands jumped all over the messaging. ‘Fat Shaming’ was never a concern of dominant fashion and beauty brands until refusing to have a woman of a certain weight and body type in their advertising flagged as insensitive. As soon as ‘beauty at any weight’ became a popular message, conglomerates got to work. Now, with a seemingly racist, sexist, arrogant, and somewhat cruel human being as the creator and brain behind the brand, those who are relying on the CrossFit name for their bottom line are balking at the opportunity to speak with actions. It’s fine to speak for justice and equality when all you have to sacrifice is five minutes to write your Instagram post- but when the opportunity to act presents itself- and you look for a way out- you’re not serious about your words.
I’m not preaching here. I have incredible disdain for the ‘cancel-culture’ and hyper-sensitivity that seems to have engulfed our younger generations. There is certainly some of that here, but there is also fire beyond the smoke. Glassman’s acts were not just inappropriate on a personal level, but as the CEO of a giant affiliate based organization, he hung his people out to dry in the most irresponsible way. He prioritized his arrogance and need for controversy over the people he is supposed to serve. He hurt thousands of businesses he was responsible for because his community gave him free reign and never made him pay for his actions in the past regardless of how unprofessional his voice became. If you want to keep your affiliation because your gym depends on it or because it means so much to you that you don’t want to let go, then don’t. I certainly won’t hold it against you. But don’t be a hypocrite by talking about social justice when it is easy just to undo your words with a lack of action when it counts. If profit and brand awareness matters more to you than values, own it. You can’t have it both ways sometimes.
I want to note that I hope there is a road to redemption available for Glassman. This blog post isn’t even about him, it’s about the lip-service shown by many of his affiliates. If I was judged upon the worst things I ever said behind closed doors, someone would be writing this article about me. If you believe any differently about yourself, give your head a shake. Although it is insane to learn about the environments in which Glassman made some of these comments (like in staff meetings and company wide zoom communications) it is harder to excuse the behaviour or feel sorry for the fallen CEO. But even with that in mind, words don’t make a person. Actions do. Everyone, including Glassman should be given the opportunity to claw back to good social standing with consistent positive actions.