CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman has retired in disgrace after igniting a massive backlash with comments he made on Twitter that mocked both the COVID-19 pandemic and George Floyd.
The $4 billion functional fitness empire announced Glassman’s retirement on its website yesterday. Dave Castro, former director of the CrossFit Games, will assume the role of CEO in Glassman’s absence.
“I’m stepping down as CEO of CrossFit, Inc., and I have decided to retire,” Glassman said. “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. Creating CrossFit and supporting its affiliates and legions of professional trainers has been a labor of love.”
Glassman started a firestorm when he tweeted “It’s Floyd-19.” in response to a tweet from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which called racism a public health issue. Far from immediately apologizing for his tweet, Glassman doubled down on his stance.
“Your failed model quarantined us and now you're going to model a solution to racism?” Glassman continued. “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!”
As sponsors fled in the wake of Glassman’s comments, including Reebok, Glassman attempted an apology. “I, CrossFit HQ, and the CrossFit community will not stand for racism. I made a mistake by the words I chose yesterday,” Glassman wrote in an statement. “My heart is deeply saddened by the pain it has caused. It was a mistake, not racist but a mistake. Floyd is a hero in the black community and not just a victim. I should have been sensitive to that and wasn’t. I apologize for that.”
That apology read hollow after BuzzFeed published audio excerpts of Glassman on a private call, saying, “I was asked by the Italians, ‘What would you do, coach?’ And I said: ‘I would agree to any restrictions put on me by the health authorities, and I would open my gym, and then 10 minutes later I would do whatever the fuck I wanted. That’s what I would do.’”
“We’re not mourning for George Floyd – I don’t think me or any of my staff are,” Glassman continued.
CrossFit Headquarters attempted to clean up the mess left in Glassman’s wake by publishing an open letter titled, “Why didn’t CrossFit just say something?” The letter acknowledges the hurt Glassman’s comments caused, as well as the rest of the company’s failure to speak up during a time of national crisis.
“We pride ourselves on authenticity and truth, but we got it wrong by failing to tell you we really care about black people and support the need for real change,” the letter states. “We weren’t sure how to get the message right, and as a result, we failed catastrophically by not effectively communicating care for the Black community, all as the online world was watching and experiencing extreme pain.”
The letter goes on to blame a lack of consensus internally for not issuing a statement sooner.
“As a team, we do not see eye to eye on every issue. We have internal disagreements on the nuances of everything you see published online. We aim for the truth. We are highly critical of ourselves, at times to our detriment,” the letter states. “We struggled to speak to the Black community because we overly complicated the need to care and respond. The same scrutiny we bring to assembling an article on CrossFit.com is not needed for telling the Black community we love them and we support them. We have not properly done the work to make it clear that you are welcome and wanted in this community.”
This isn’t the first time a CrossFit employee has seen pushback for public comments. Former spokesperson and chief knowledge officer Russell Berger was forced to resign after tweeting his support for a CrossFit gym's cancellation of a Pride event, citing his belief that being gay is a “sin.”
AB spoke to Castro ahead of the CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis.