For those following along at home, it’s been an intense few weeks for Greg Glassman. The founder, former CEO, and sole owner of CrossFit Inc. recently retired following the backlash from a controversial tweet and comments regarding the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd.
As the adage goes, it looks like things may get worse before (and if) they get better for CrossFit and its founder. According to a breaking story in The New York Times, Greg Glassman and many of his male deputies consistently engaged in overt sexual harassment and systemic sexism at the company.
Top 5 Takeaways from the New York Times Article
1. This didn’t come as a surprise to many observers.
Former CrossFit HQ employees “were surprised that his downfall was tied to accusations of racism. They had assumed that the reason would be routine and rampant sexual harassment.”
2. The alleged behavior was corroborated by both former HQ employees and athletes.
Eight former HQ employees and four athletes with close ties to HQ corroborated accounts of verbal and physical sexual harassment, including accounts of how Glassman “verbally demeaned women, pulled at their clothes to try to peek at their cleavage and aimed his phone’s camera to snap photos of their breasts while they traveled with him for work.” In addition, “male (HQ) employees would rank female professional CrossFit athletes according to how much the men wanted to have sex with them.”
Because most of the lewd conduct and “systematic undermining of women” happened out in the open, female employees “worried that speaking out would cost them their jobs.”
According to the NYT, Glassman paid a financial settlement to stop a sexual harassment suit from being filed against him.
Julie Kelly was a “former employee whose lawyers threatened to file a sexual harassment lawsuit.” Glassman was being driven to the airport by Andy Stumpf, a former Navy Seal with five Bronze Star medals and a Purple Heart who oversaw CrossFit, Inc.’s partnership with Reebok and also worked as Mr. Glassman’s pilot.
“We were in the car and he was chuckling,” said Mr. Stumpf, in an interview. “I asked why he was in such a good mood and he said, ‘I finally finished up with the bullshit with Julie; I had to pay that whore.’”
3. Glassman’s ex-wife speaks up.
“Lauren Jenai, Mr. Glassman’s ex-wife who founded CrossFit with him, said that the employees and athletes were accurately describing the corporate atmosphere she witnessed before divorcing Mr. Glassman in 2013.”
She added “people were punished for challenging the culture. “If you didn’t agree with Greg, you would be ostracized, especially if you were a female,” she said. “For me, the bigger problem than the language is the culture behind it. If you speak out, you’re out. I’ve seen it firsthand, over and over and over.”
4. CrossFit spokespeople deny conduct and suggest an ulterior motive for allegations.
A CrossFit spokeswoman “suggested that people speaking out against Mr. Glassman are doing so to lessen the worth of his company and then buy it from him.”
“There is a collective effort to devalue the company and buy it for scraps,” she said.”
Jenai confirmed that she did reach out to CrossFit with an offer to purchase the company and that she has been offered backing by an investment company.
A Timeline of CrossFit’s Recent Troubles
The brutal murder of George Floyd sparked widespread Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations.
On Zoom call with affiliate owners, Glassman states “We’re not mourning George Floyd.”
On June 6th, the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation posted a tweet stating “RACISM IS A PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE”, to which Glassman replied, “It’s Floyd-19.” The backlash from the tweet resulted in sponsors, affiliates, and elite athletes distancing themselves from CrossFit.
On June 9th, Glassman resigns as CEO, while retaining 100% ownership of the company. Dave Castro, Director of The CrossFit Games and Co-Director of Training, is appointed new CEO. CrossFit also releases a statement.
On June 12th, former HQ employee Andy Stumpf uses his podcast to call out Glassman and CrossFit HQ higher-ups, outlining a disturbing culture of sexual harassment and misogyny.
On June 17th, it was announced that the 2020 CrossFit Games would be postponed until at least August 17th.
On June 20th, The New York Times published the article alleging that Glassman fostered a sexist culture at CrossFit HQ.
What Happens Next?
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Six months ago my friend Vickie said, “We should go to CrossFit.” We both laughed because, after all, we were both over 50 and not in the best of shape (at least I wasn’t). I had tried exercising here and there over the years, but didn’t have the self-discipline to do it regularly. My job — which involves sitting on my butt all day staring at my computer — led to some really unhealthy habits. Add to that a bunch of stressors in my life — a death in the family, becoming empty nesters, our grandson being born with a rare genetic condition, a kitchen reno, a cancer scare, a major job change — and I was an out-of-shape mess. I put on 50 lbs. in a year and everything hurt. The disc degeneration in my back was getting worse and despite several rounds of physical therapy, at times I couldn’t get up from the floor unassisted. I clutched the railing every time I went up and down steps, fearful I’d fall. Worse, my blood pressure and cholesterol had ventured into unhealthy territory and my under-active thyroid forced me to go on medication. – Not exactly what you think of when you picture a CrossFitter in your mind, right? Same here. – If you had told me seven months ago that I would be going to CrossFit twice a week and actually enjoying it, I would have laughed in your face. Everyone who knows me would have laughed in your face. And if you had told me that my introverted self would enjoy being part of a fitness “community,” I would have thought the idea absurd. Yet here we are. The encouragement I get from my fellow CrossFitters is part of what keeps me going back—even more so now that we’re all forced to work out at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The whole experience has been radically life-changing. I feel ten years younger and I don’t fear the effects of aging as much as I used to, knowing I’m building muscle and endurance and learning healthy habits. • Read “How I Went from Sedentary to CrossFit in One Day” by @pjbolyard through the link in our bio.
While The New York Times reports that Glassman ”wants to retire and home-school his kids”, many are still questioning if his resignation as the CEO of CrossFit Inc. while still retaining sole ownership of the company will be enough to change the toxic culture at CrossFit HQ.