The impact of the death of George Floyd while in police custody and the following protests and riots have been felt across all sports, but it has only been the latest in a larger issue that many CrossFit affiliates feel hasn’t been addressed nearly enough.
Greg Glassman’s recent “FLOYD-19” tweet was met with immediate backlash from athletes, fans, and companies like Reebok, but as some people in the community have shared, this isn’t the first time that Glassman’s actions or comments have been deemed offensive or controversial. Even before his tweet, some CrossFit gyms had made the decision to move on without their affiliates.
One noted example was the former “Rocket CrossFit” in Seattle, Washington which is now known as Rocket Community Fitness. They had reached out to CrossFit HQ to address issues surrounding the Black Lives Movement. The reply to that message, which they shared on their blog, included a copy of an email Glassman sent to the gym ownership. That blog post also includes the statement that Rocket has denounced their affiliation and will move on without the CrossFit name.
Another gym who recently made a similar decision is Petworth Fitness in Washington, D.C. They had made their own announcement in a post on Instagram with an open letter to CrossFit as to why they felt it was best for them to do so. Their affiliation was known as CrossFit Petworth before they announced their departure.
Kristin Stone of Petworth Fitness spoke with BarBend in greater detail about their thoughts, how they came to their decision, the reaction of their community, and what they hope to see happen going forward.
BarBend: How long was the process for you to make your decision to drop your affiliation and can you give us an idea of what that process looked like?
Stone: We’ve talked about this for a while–I’d say on and off for 2 or so years. For us, representation and access in the sport and the business side of CrossFit has long been troublesome.
We made the final call to drop over the course of the last week. Our process started with a draft of our written statement. We then spoke individually to our Black coaches about the choice. We did not want to make them feel as though this was their burden to carry. One of the ways privilege works is that I (a white woman) can walk away from this whenever I want; they have to sit with our choice whether it suits them or not. We later held an all-team meeting asking for edits and comments before our statement went out. On Thursday evening we sent a note to our members notifying them of our decision, linking to our letter we sent to CrossFit HQ at the same time, and letting them know on Friday we would be sending it on social media. Friday morning, our post went live on IG and Facebook.
What has the reaction been from your membership and community at large in the short time since you’ve made your decision known?
Stone: Without speaking for any individuals, we have an amazing community and are located in a neighborhood long known for its work on social justice, so we hope this decision was met with pride from our members. We look forward to continuing to work within our own community on access to our gym and classes.
I don’t want to distract from the purpose of our statement by discussing emotional reactions. We are firm that this decision is not about generating buzz–we were hopeful that other affiliates might see our statement and start internal discussions on their own actions (or inactions) regarding anti-racism work.
You made your stance known before Greg Glassman’s recent controversial tweet. Do you have any thoughts about what he said?
Stone: Greg Glassman’s flippant remarks lacked respect and consideration for Black Americans and was especially insulting to the memory of George Floyd. I was personally ashamed to see this brand I’ve long loved and shared with my own friends and family would be so dismissive of the massive human rights movement and public health crisis in our world today.
Is there anything else you’re doing on your own to help your area and/or gym move forward against racism?
Stone: One thing we are researching is ways to allow people who have been unable to afford memberships access to our gym. We’re working on pricing models and community outreach strategies as we look to expand our membership base.
We also plan a deeper investment into our Steve’s Club program. A member of ours started a Steve’s Club at our gym last year and it’s already expanded quite a bit, but we are hopeful that more members of our community will join us in supporting the kids in our program to help it grow.
Lastly we are hoping to engage our members on how to do this work. We have so many members that are smart, dedicated, and caring people who might be able to help us use our platform to continue making changes, and we hope to learn from them as we continue in this direction.
Do you have a plan in place for how your business will move forward without your affiliation and how can people interested find out more about your gym?
Stone: As we told our members: “Our classes will not have significant changes–what was called CrossFit will have a new name, but otherwise programming will remain unchanged since it was never reliant on daily CrossFit.com workout suggestions, nor did it strictly adhere to only CrossFit ideologies. There will still be burpees, thrusters, and smart programming. We simply no longer wish to pay a brand that will not stand up to racism in our country.”
People can absolutely check our website and find us on social media channels — we’re most active on Instagram. Within our neighborhood, we’re always around in some way! Usually they can walk in any time and see us around, but due to current COVID-19 restrictions, we’ve made ourselves available for zoom sessions. We also recommend if like us you are continuing to learn about the work that lies ahead, you check out this anti-racist reading list from Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and support our neighbors at Loyalty Books.
Featured image: @petworthfitness on Instagram