A confusing wave of emotions crept into me when I read CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman’s comments yesterday: not just his ridiculous “FLOYD-19” tweet, but the dismissive and extraordinarily unprofessional reply to Alyssa Royse, Owner of Seattle’s CrossFit Community Fitness (formerly Rocket CrossFit) after she expressed concern for Glassman’s comments and the leadership and management of the CrossFit brand.
That mix of disappointment and betrayal can be felt when brands, not just people, don’t live up to the image we’ve formed in our minds about them. I, like so many other CrossFitters, developed a deep love for the brand and the community as a place where we could all belong and could grow into powerful, strong versions of ourselves physically and mentally. This is what my local affiliate, CrossFit Modulus, espouses in a consistent and tangible way.
It might sound idealistic or naive, building a relationship with a particular type of workout regimen, but in a very real sense, the communal commitment to putting in hard work and relentlessly pursuing physical achievement leads to CrossFit becoming an actual part of your identity. When you hear the joke “How do you know someone does CrossFit? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” it’s not wrong. We’ll tell you with pride because of what we believed CrossFit to represent; as someone who has always loved the team spirit, competition, and individual excellence the world of sport demanded of me as I was growing up, I was excited to find these aspects within CrossFit as an adult, and felt a sense of relief and satisfaction in finding a place to express the person I’d always believed myself to be, and I was proud to associate myself with this community.
When we come to the awareness that what we believed and incorporated into our identity is actually something not just mismatched, but overtly opposite to that ideal and overtly abhorrent, the resulting emotional experience is much deeper than cynicism. The internal thought can be articulated as:
“You are not who I thought you were, and because I’ve associated myself so closely with you, I cannot be the person I believe myself to be if I continue to associate with you as you currently choose to be.”
With greater awareness and new information like the beliefs embodied by Glassman, CrossFitters are now asked to reevaluate not just how we align ourselves with the brand, but more importantly, who we believe ourselves to be.
Greg Glassman’s sentiments were not a fluke. The aggression and lashing-out at Alyssa Royse is not an accident or a case of the Mondays. The callous and disconnected tweet of FLOYD-19 isn’t a poor choice of words. Glassman’s comments aren’t just the innocuous opinions of one person within the CrossFit brand, as much I would prefer to believe. The fact that it is permissible for the founder and CEO to interact with clients and community members in this way is a reflection of a larger culture within the brand that exists and seems to be trucking along unchecked. I hope I’m wrong.
The financial repercussions of dropped sponsorships, dropped affiliations, and high-profile athletes publicly pulling out of the CrossFit Games are taking place only now in the midst of international condemnation of police brutality and racism, so now this organization is being publicly and collectively held accountable by those with greater power and influence. How many years was this thinking going unchecked because a lack of courageousness existed to stand against it? Or perhaps we’re only just now beginning to realize the danger of turning a blind eye to the downplaying of societal disengagement and injustice? Or perhaps we just got comfortable chalking unsavory comments up to one man’s opinion, instead of acknowledging the underlying effects and influence one man’s opinion, especially a man in a position of power, have in shaping a community. Luckily, on a micro level, there’s much more opportunity for healthy and empowering CrossFit communities to thrive, and something I’ve been grateful to experience directly.
Something important to note is that if we’re going to look at the past and dig up the reasons we’ve gotten here, it’s important to look at the past for purposes of learning and improving and overhauling what we no longer accept, instead of for purposes of playing the “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve,” game. This is a huge opportunity for growth.
Aspire to do better. I say this to Glassman and to all leaders at CrossFit HQ and throughout the CrossFit community. I say this to our society as a whole. I say this to myself as an athlete, as a business owner, as a coach, as a wife, a daughter, a sister, and as a friend. I hope for real accountability and deeper awareness within the leadership of CrossFit and so many other organizations within which this kind of toxic, ignorant culture is allowed to exist. It’s 2020, and employers can’t sit comfortably as just entities that offer jobs. Organizations can no longer pretend that ethics, moral philosophies, codes of conduct, and social engagement don’t exist within their internal communities. Define who you are and what you stand for. It’s time to step up. It’s uncomfortable, it’s hard, but do the hard work of defining who you are, because it has ripple effects throughout society.
Hard work pays off. #HWPO