Syn Martinez: Race, CrossFit, and Inclusivity in Fitness (Podcast)

Today I’m talking to Syn Martinez, who owns and operates the fitness and lifestyle clothing brand Afro Brutality. Syn also owned and coached at CrossFit Harlem from 2009 to 2014. I’ve known Syn for around seven years, and he’s always been very transparent and outspoken in his views. In this conversation — recorded just a day before it was announced Glassman would be stepping down as CrossFit CEO — we cover some topics and perspectives that may be controversial in the fitness space. It’s also worth noting the podcast does include language that could make some uncomfortable.

Our conversation revolves around the controversy surrounding Greg Glassman and CrossFit HQs stance — or in some cases, silence — on race relations and inclusivity. Syn was an early adopter of CrossFit methodology on the East Coast, and he also built relationships with Glassman and his team over the years, including some possible initiatives to expand CrossFit’s reach within the Black community. Syn gives his perspective on the opportunities that could have been and what he thinks fell through along the way.

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

Here’s the thing. We know this game. Fortunately, we consider it family, but there’s black trainers everywhere. We talk to each other. We get through some things together, so I’m going to give it back.

 

I’m going to be like, “Listen, let’s come to the table. Let’s figure out something that’s going to take care of everybody. Don’t make this across the thing. Make this something for the community. Make this beautiful.”

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend” podcast. Where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches and minds from around the strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao. This podcast is presented by barbend.com.

 

Today I’m talking to Syn Martinez, who owns and operates the fitness and lifestyle clothing brand Afro Brutality. Syn also owned and coached at CrossFit Harlem from 2009 to 2014. Our conversation revolves around the controversy surrounding Greg Glassman, and CrossFit HQ stance, or in some cases, silence on race relations and inclusivity.

 

Syn was an early adopter of CrossFit methodology on the East Coast. He also built relationships with Glassman and his team over the years, including some possible initiatives to expand CrossFit’s Reach within the Black community.

 

Syn gives his perspective on the opportunities that could have been and what he thinks fell through along the way. I’ve known Syn for around seven years. He’s always been very transparent and outspoken in his views.

 

In this conversation, recorded just a day before it was announced that Glassman would be stepping down as CrossFit CEO, we cover some topics and perspectives that may be controversial in the fitness space. The podcast does include language that could make some uncomfortable.

 

I do want to take a second to say, we’re incredibly thankful that you listen to this podcast. If you haven’t already, be sure to leave a rating and review of the BarBend Podcast in your app of choice. Now let’s get to it.

 

Syn Martinez, thanks for joining us. We go way back in the fitness in CrossFit community. I have had a lot of exposure to the different hats you’ve worn like literally, hats you’ve worn in the fitness space. Just to give folks some context, when did you first discover CrossFit, because you go way, way, way back with that organization?

 

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

I was a 2007 guy. I heard some guys talking about it. I just went right to the Google piece. I googled it. The only thing I could remember was the Jim Jones. At that time, I think they had a pretty good relationship. Again, we’re talking like 2007.

 

In 2008, I decided to make a career change. I decided I was unhealthy guy, a lot of stuff. It was affecting my health, not because the doctor said so but I just felt uncomfortable. I did something about it. Along the way, I realized that if I did some more high intensity, less of the long and slow and steady. I was already researching that.

 

When I came across CrossFit and made that decision to say, “Let’s see if I can make this something into a business.” I decided to go for it. 2008 is when I created it. In 2009, I was at Ciliated. I showed some pictures of CrossFit, common grade came into Harlem. It was a big thing for me.

 

Not a lot of people saw this guy. It was like looking at a prophet or something retarded or something that was of some stature to you at the time. That’s where it started. Two months later, I created this company called Afro Brutality. With that little bit of push, I was able to do some good thing.

David TaoDavid Tao

Tell us about the life cycle of CrossFit Harlem? How long was it in business? What role do you think it played in the community in Harlem?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

 I made it synonymous very early. When Greg and Lisa came. Lisa, orchestrated the whole thing and Greg took the credit. Greg and I had already…He had heard about me through a lot of different people. She sealed the deal for us.

 

At that time, I was the first one at the table. There’s pictures of just me in there and maybe one other guy that came there because he was part of some military unit or Navy unit. They were very heavy and at the time in the military peace, and in the fire department and police and everything that was considered military at the time.

 

You can see me in a pool of geese, I was the guy. 2008 with these guys, and I came in when everything was super fresh. When everybody was still trying to figure it out. I go way back with these people. Rogue fitness, I knew when they got started.

 

Progenex, I knew when they got started. Stronger, Faster, Healthier, I knew when they got started. PingFlip, I was there when they got started. True Form Runner, when they got started, I was there. I’ve missed a few brands.

 

Life is our X, like I was there in the beginning. They gave me some love. They understood what I was doing. They gave me some love back, just to push my mission.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

How long did CrossFit Harlem operate for?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

CrossFit Harlem, again, we got affiliated in 2009. I think the paperwork went through by October, November, somewhere around there in 2009. We started trying to figure out where we all go. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time. That’s why we didn’t affiliate at the time.

 

You heard some political stuff. We wasn’t sure if you wanted to deal with that, racist this, white man that. He was registering ourselves for self-mutilation in our own community. We did a lot of research to try to figure out what was going on with this. We attach ourselves to this. Are we creating social suicide? Are we doing something good? I was able to create Afro Brutality out of that.

 

I was able to create something good. We were 2009, officially affiliated. We found some places to stay. The funny story was, when Greg came in and did his little speech, a few of my guys didn’t know who the owner of the place was. They got into a little tiff. Across the hall we had to leave. We was outside for a while. We went to the parks with it.

 

We went to a few parks in Harlem. We went to some sidewalks, depending on what the workout was. I was telling BarBend where we had one rack. We had a few barbells. We started extremely early with this because I saw something special. Being a part of this, I saw a voice that most people couldn’t get into. I came up with proper culture.

 

I came up to the top where he was the first one. You were the first black executive. First black account executive, first black this, serves black that. I was used to be able to negotiate at those tables man with high power executives.

 

I don’t know if it necessarily it was racism or whatever or white privilege or pride or however that narrative is working. I just know that I was the best guy at the table. That’s why I was there. I treated this the same way. I’m going to be the best guy at the table. You all can figure that other stuff out on your own. I feel I’ve done that.

 

Again, I’m sorry, I’m preaching. I’m sorry. I appreciate it.

 

I’m in a tender moment. I’ve done a lot of things today. I’ve dealt with a lot of emotion. You got to forgive me. I know people going right at me. They go right at me. It’s terrible. It feels terrible. Like, “How could you not stand for the little bit of stuff I’ve been able to put on people’s hearts? How could you not stand for that?” That’s real.

 

Even you and I, we’ve had our differences. We didn’t talk for a little while. Then we sat down. He said, “Syn, let’s go to dinner.” I said, “You paying?” He said, “Yeah, I’ll be there.” We hammered it out men like men, just like men. Here it is. You know how big this is for me. I’ve known you forever.

 

To be able to be featured on your podcast it’s such a blessing because it just shows, you can be upset with someone. If you have a real conversation with them, you can get over some shit. You can get past some shit. Why can’t we have that conversation?

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Do you think we’re going to get past what’s going on right now with CrossFit?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

I’m just pushing. Here’s the funny thing, whether they burn it down or they deal with it the way it is. I’m going to still be there at the rebuilding process. I still get my dream. I just wanted to try to do it the right way. Let’s try to do it the right way. Do we really need to do this? Do we really need to feed into every stereotype they ever said about us?

 

“We’re a cult or our cult leader said something.” Now we got to burn it down. Like what? If you saying that CrossFit is bigger than Glassman, then let’s figure it out. Do we need to hang this guy? Do we really need to do that? Is that really what we’re about? What message are we sending?

David TaoDavid Tao

 

What was your — I’m curious because I don’t really know, we were texting a little bit Saturday Night as it was happening after that, as the Twitter firestorm was beginning — what were your initial reactions to Greg, Glassman tweets?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

I’m going to give two disclaimers. I just got to do it man. People really don’t know me. I don’t know how many guys are going to see this man. The first disclaimer is this. I use language from the ’90s. I use language from the ’80s. If I say “retarded” if I fuck around and say “nigga.” Those were terms of love. We were just trying to talk about something real quick.

 

Don’t take that personal. That’s what people loved about me. I’m just real. Let me just say that so there’s a dictionary that goes with me. I say things out of turn. That’s how we got here. That’s why we’re at this table.

 

The second thing I want to say is you’re getting real-time information. I can tell you things that have happened in the last five minutes. I am at the actual helm of this dude. I got people screaming. You got to take a lead on this thing. You got to take the lead on this. We’re looking really crazy out here. You got to take the lead on this.

 

We believe in you. I’m getting so many emotional phone calls. It’s killing me, dude. It’s blessing me at the same time. I’m right in the thick of it, so every question you asked me, I’m going to tell you what just happened five minutes ago.

David TaoDavid Tao

I got you. What were your initial reactions to those tweets? Do you remember your initial feeling?

 

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

 Now, here comes the insider information, which bless you. Tell you that you’re brilliant. I love you. Greg has been trying to tell me this all week now. Greg has been trying to get his theory along what’s happening. He’s been trying to feed this to me all week. I just ignored it.

 

I was just like, “Can we finish this, and let’s get back to the point?” I let him rant, and then I say, “Let’s get back to the point. We got to fight this.” I would send him every single piece of hate that I got because they’re sending it all to me. I sent it right to him. What the hell are we going do?

 

I said they’re calling me a cold man. They’re calling me Uncle Tom. I’m standing with the most racist man. He’s top three right now. I know there’s a stat that I just got seven minutes ago. CrossFit is top three racist company you cannot work with. My man is on the 10th, and that’s very strong [inaudible 12:05] .

 

They’re really coming at us, for what? What do you expect to gain out of this? Why can’t we stay as a community to our basics? To answer your question, he’s been trying to tell me this whole week. I feel terrible about it. I’d to just say, “Listen, you bugging out. This is not the time to be trying to get mathematical with this. Leave it alone.” I didn’t say it. I feel terrible. I didn’t say it.

 

I was just like, “Let’s get back to the point at hand. You got to speak up. You got to say something. You can’t just sit here with this. This is disgusting. This is between you and I, Greg.” That’s what broke his heart. He was like, “Damn, staying you right? This is between us.” “We started this 11 years ago, and we fell apart. We got to fix this. Let’s go,” and he showed up.

David TaoDavid Tao

Do you think that Greg Glassman looks to you as a person of color in CrossFit for your thoughts and opinions about how to address minority communities or communicate with them?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

I will tell you this. I thought about this question. I was always the guy on the inside. I was always the inside guy. When something went down, I didn’t just handle stuff with Greg. I handed him stuff with other companies. I became that guy that they talk to me about what the hell is people don’t understand Cross Shit.

 

With some angelic reason, I understand these guys. I get it. I know where that heat is coming from. I was in a strange way. I was raised that way. They always talk to me about what’s going on. He said, “What the hell is this?” [laughs]

 

I was just like, “CrossFit is a different community.” You got to talk to them like this. “This is not so awesome street stuff. We can’t go to the streets with this. We got to pull back. We can’t do that.”

 

To a certain extent, I did everything I could to influence it. Here’s the thing. I came up with Robb Wolf, who Tanya created an entire movement called Paleo. I’m here with Greg Everett, who’s bringing American weightlifting back to where it needs to be. I’m with Melissa Urban, who did the Whole30. These are the guys that came up with.

 

In my mind, I got to create something, and then go back to CrossFit when they see the value and that’s what’s happening. I created something of value. Now, they’re saying, “You got it. You got to officially come to the table. You got to officially start doing this.”

 

It’s happening very quickly. I’m doing my best, but I’m hearing people telling me we’re unorganized that we got to figure out how to put it together.

David TaoDavid Tao

When you say CrossFit is asking you to come to the table, what specifically, now, are they asking you to do?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

What’s a shame is that we talked about these things in 2009. I don’t know if it’s more embarrassing that he didn’t do it, or I couldn’t articulate it enough where it actually took place in 2009.

 

I recently learned there was some pettiness on why they didn’t open that free CrossFit gym in Harlem. It was based on some pettiness. They felt like I was taking advantage of the situation. It was a new relationship. They didn’t understand me.

 

When I’m saying, “I want 50 GHGs because you got 150 of them,” I didn’t see nothing wrong with that. I thought, “Hey, man. More for the baby’s moving for other gyms,” because they didn’t understand. I was feeding every gym because we were all starving.

 

Every CrossFit gym owner at that time came to that CrossFit 101 in Harlem. It was the only time he has been in Manhattan officially. He snuck in here a few times, but this is the only time you actually came, sat down, and talk with us. We were all starving. I was creating a program that was going to feed them, and then see the program that I was doing already in the youth centers.

 

I didn’t do better with the social media, and show you this kid. That was damn near scoliosis, then I taught him through CrossFit, or through Mark Repetto, who was the guy at the time. I just bring that back up. I created real change, and I did a terrible job.

 

That’s how I feel. Personally, I’m representing that. Now, we’re here after everything is burned down, after the lynch mob is at the fences, and understanding what I started in 2009.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

What do you think Greg Glassman can do if anything? What do you think CrossFit HQ can do, if anything, to regain trust within the community?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

 

It’s going be a long time. There were already problems. You got to understand I was the guy that blew the whistle. I was the whistle blower. I said, “Where’s CrossFit HQ on this, man?” I said it Monday. It was either Monday morning or Tuesday morning. I apologize.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

This is the Monday before…This is…

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

 

Yeah, the Monday before the shitstorm, dude. I was right there.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Who are you communicating with?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

At that time, I had Greg’s old number. I texted him, and I didn’t get a reply because one of them Android. I wasn’t sure if he was just ignoring my messages, or if he really heard my messages, then I posted that on Facebook, “CrossFit HQ, what’s up?”

 

Like, “I haven’t been there for you a few times.” Once you saw a little bit of love on this side, so I’m taking personal, and that’s where I’m at. I’m still personal with it.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Were you able to get in touch with Greg over the course…?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

 

Yeah. As of Tuesday, I found another number, I text him, I said, “Greg, you’re fucking-up, man. You’re going to have to stand for this. You’re going to have to…”

David TaoDavid Tao

 

This is the Tuesday before his tweet. This is four days before his tweet, basically.

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

This is Tuesday before his tweet. We were talking about this to…Everything he said minus a few other things that we can get into if you want to, because I can tell you what was said.

 

When he spoke about on that Zoom call on Sunday, with 30 black affiliates, was everything we talked about on Tuesday. It was absolutely everything. Give or take a few things.

David TaoDavid Tao

What are some of the topics that you all discuss, when you and Greg were communicating?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

Him and I had talked about this in 2009. He was, “Syn, do you think we should just do like a discounted program?” I said, “Greg, just give this shit away. Let’s just give it for free.” He was like, “You know what, you’re right.”

 

Our discussions were leases. You got me looking for places. I was trying to find places. The issue became who do I communicate with directly. We’re talking 2009. It wasn’t a smartphone-ish as it is now. It was terrible communication.

 

I was looking for places. We came up with some metrics on, “Oh, I found this place for $3,200 a month. It’s this square feet.” What didn’t happen was because they sent me the equipment list from Tony Blur’s place in Virginia Beach where they used to have all their level ones, and all of the certifications.

 

It was called the East Coast Certification Center. Tony was moving to California and we discussed this. He was like, “Syn, I got all this equipment. You know what, I’ll pay the rent. Let’s do the equipment. I’ll send you a list and let’s get started.” I said, “Absolutely.”

 

I sent him a list of everything I wanted and it looked greedy. It looked like I was bagging. It looked like I had him on top of my head. It was a new relationship at that time. I didn’t know who these people less than a year. They took me for a fraud. They took me for, “You’re doing that race card stuff.”

 

It’s unfortunate. For me, this is very personal. I want to get my mission done. We were talking pre-CrossFit. At the time, it was just Harlem. We wanted to figure out how to create a program within Harlem to get all the data that we needed to start saying, “OK, we got to put this in WOD, or we got to put this in Compton or we got to put this in Detroit.”

 

We were creating a free program, him and I. That’s what makes it so poetic that my mother with a black panther with the free program. Go ahead, I’m sorry.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

 [laughs] Back then it never got off the ground. The idea that you were working with Glassman on was to have basically access to free or heavily discounted CrossFit for under-served urban communities basically is a way to describe it.

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

A totally free CrossFit in those major places that we know we could put in just a little bit of money. Remember, this was 2009. We’re not talking where it’s at now. We were all broke pretty much and we would just run.

 

Put a little bit of money into it. Make one in Harlem just so we can show, “Hey, listen, we’re making this work.” Then we had programs that I had to do on my own. That’s the thing I want people to understand. The people that actually know me, know I’ve been doing this.

 

I’ve been in public schools in the South Bronx, teaching this. I’ve been in high schools. I’ve been in vocational schools. I’ve been in new centers. I’ve been doing this. I’ve been doing this for a minute on my own dime.

 

This is my time to say, “Listen, man, I didn’t try it on my own. I need a little bit of help.” They would always send equipment, discount the equipment. Sometimes it would just show up like it fell off a truck. They showed love. They understood what I was doing.

 

I just couldn’t show the metrics. I guess if you want to get more financial or entrepreneurial with it. I couldn’t show that this was going to create money long-term. My language was wrong, or my approaches wrong, or I didn’t have the right shirt on that day.

 

It feeds to some of the narratives. Guess what, this is time to rectify this. I’m just preaching that. Let’s just try to fix this. Why not?

David TaoDavid Tao

 

What steps do you think CrossFit could take right now as a company to regain some trust and to show that they are paying attention to and care for minority communities within the CrossFit community?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

 

How long we’ve been on this podcast?

David TaoDavid Tao

 

[laughs] About 20 minutes so far.

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

22 minutes ago we decided, I’ve got a collective body of CrossFit affiliate owners that are in different cities. They’re giving me the right to just go ahead and “Let’s go ahead and seal this deal Syn. We’re going to give you the lead man.”

 

What’s going to happen now is a focus zone ball on exactly what we’re looking for. I’m going to have different factions in there. I’m going to have different types of fitness in this city because we’re all in this together. I don’t want it to be a CrossFit thing. I want it to be Tone House. Let’s go. Let’s talk.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

These are all New York-based gyms?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

Here’s the thing. We know this game. Unfortunately, fortunately, we consider it a family, but there’s black trainers everywhere. We talk to each other. We get through some things together.

 

I’m going to give it back. I’m going to be like, “Listen, man, let’s come to the table. Let’s figure out something that’s going to take care of everybody. Don’t make this a CrossFit thing. Make this something for the community. Make this beautiful, man.”

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Is that a call? What specifically can CrossFit HQ do or do you want CrossFit HQ to do moving forward?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

I was always focused on the fun part, the funds. We did this in 2009. We were all struggling. Greg, I love you, man, but you got to write a check. I’ve been focused on that and how to understand, how to pitch that better in terms of those types of matrix.

 

He offered a half a million dollars a year right up front on Tuesday morning. It’s documented, but he had stipulations in there. He said, “Syn, we got 350 to 500 people we got to take care of. I want senior citizens involved.” Of course, Greg, why not? Let’s do that. Make sense.

 

I want people to understand that this is not going to be some black people in Fleo shorts. This is going to be homeless people. This is going to be elderly people. This is going to be anyone that can do what it is that we do and based on whatever we can come together and figure out together. This is going to be a real thing.

 

This is not going to be now there’s 14 more or this 14 black CrossFitters at the games. They take 5 or 10 years and come to that, but this is not something that I’m going for right now.

 

I want to take care of the community. I want to see what I started on my own money, on my own time. I want to see everybody get a chance to feel like that when they’re taking care of people, when they’re taking care of something that’s bigger than them.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Is this a movement that you are comfortable growing without CrossFit, or are you going to basically offer them a seat at the table and still say, “Hey, I want to do this with and within CrossFit”?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

Unfortunately, all are controlling our narrative. What I mean by that is Greg said, even in 2009, he said, “Syn, don’t tell nobody I’m giving you the money. Don’t give me no credit for this. Do this on your own. Make them feel you did it by yourself.”

 

He said that in 2009, and he said it again on Tuesday. He just doesn’t want to take credit for this. He doesn’t want people to think that you can put a gun to his head. You got to understand he’s not just thinking about us.

 

He’s like, “What if this situation happens for the Irish? What if this situation happens for the Russians? Are they going to be as every Russian CrossFitter going to jump up and put a gun to his head and said, ‘We got to listen to demands’?”

 

He’s learning more about diversity within his own community than he is learning about how to deal with black people. That’s not what this is about.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Do you think Greg Glassman should basically cede control of CrossFit, or do you think he should resign from his position running the show at CrossFit?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

There’s a few narratives out there. We just get them to step down and say we’ll be good, like stepping down, stepping down. I just don’t understand if we are not a cult and this is not a cult leader, then why are we acting like this is some type of dictatorship? There’s paperwork that can be involved.

 

I had a conversation with someone, and I said one thing. I said, “What if we just take his control? What if he gives up 51 percent and make sure that that 51 percent controls everything that he does so he can’t go out there with this?” That’s a business move. That’s not necessarily where we’re at.

 

It’s an emotional move we’re thinking about right now. We’re not getting back to basics like, “OK, this is a corporation. There’s ways to deal with different things within a corporation. Can we not get back to the actual thing? [inaudible 27:27] .”

 

There’s different ways to deal with that. There’s lawyers that can deal with that. There’s all types of things that we can do right now and start dealing with this. I think we’re just focusing on the emotional part of it. We’re missing the financial opportunity for missing out what good we can do in the community. It’s just not about Morpheus.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Do you think the community’s reaction to Glassman’s tweets, was it overreaction?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

We’re in a very tender time. I don’t condone it at all. I didn’t even address it when he sent it to me because a lot of us know that he just says things. He’s saying things.

 

I would compare to two ways. Archie Bunker, he’s going to say something on this, but he’s got a good heart. Or, this is the drunk Bronco from the block party, from the barbecue where he takes his shirt off and he runs around naked. Like, “This is my [inaudible 28:39] , calm down in a second, unfortunately, and this is what’s happening.

 

I like what’s happening. He knew this. We’re not new to this. We just didn’t know he was going to do this. I especially did not know he was going to do this.

 

He was actually putting it out there thinking he was doing something good. He actually put it out there like it was smart. Like, “Here’s your answer to everything. Here’s your solution. This is what’s caused your problem.” No, man, you’ve missed the entire point.

David TaoDavid Tao

You talked a lot about your relationship with Glassman as it began around 2008, 2009. Do you think that there were steps that could have been taken in the ensuing time that maybe weren’t, though free CrossFit courses in those areas you mentioned, but could have been something else that would have made CrossFitters of color feel more included in the community?

 

I don’t like the term of color, but I’m with you on this. My thing is this. The net focus shouldn’t be on one race of people. It shouldn’t be on Black people. “Oh, this is going to offend Black people.” I don’t like that narrative.

 

If this offends Irish, then you deal with it. If this offends Russians, we deal with it. I just think there’s an insensitivity at the point and we expose it based on this particular result.

 

This is about how CrossFit interacts with all cultural differences, and not necessarily about our particular cultural difference, and how he did or did not address that and how he effectively or ineffectively addressed that. I think this is bigger than us.

 

We’re setting the tone for how other fitness companies may say,” You know what? Let’s stand with this. This is not right. We know it’s not right. We’re going to clean the house. We’re going to do what’s right. We’re setting the tone for that.”

 

If we say, let’s just burn everything, then other people are going to have a little scar for that. CrossFit, they burn everything. Let’s just burn everything, and I feel like we perpetuate the problem.

Do you think your status as a black man who’s well known in the CrossFit community places an impossible task on you? You are someone who has a relationship and a personal relationship with Greg Glassman. You’re someone who cares very much about the CrossFit community. You’re someone whose livelihood depends on the fitness community. Does that put you in a tough situation?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

No, I’m putting my reputation on the line, but it doesn’t affect my money. I left CrossFit in 2009. I closed my CrossFit in 2014 for forces that were unknown. They decided to sell the building. They kicked us out because you can’t have young people in there with older people, unless they’re certified to be there. It became a charter school.

 

Based from forces that were totally unknown to me. I’ve stayed in the community because I was there in the beginning and everyone is just showing that love for me. I’ve survived just of love. I haven’t necessarily got the bottom line up or anything like that. I’ve been living of respect, the love, and reputation.

 

When this situation came up, I just felt like it’s something I had to get in front of. Even though I’m in the military community, heavy, I’m in the Canine community, heavy. I’m in the fire department, heavy. I got a call from the police…I don’t want to say police commissioner, I think he’s a police lieutenant, who oversees all the CrossFits in New York City.

 

He called me personally saying, “Let’s, let’s figure this out, man. You’re the only one talking like this. Everybody is ready to burn everything.” I’m putting my entire reputation on the line not just with the CrossFit community, because they love me, but my own community.

 

I got people calling me Uncle Tom, and Kuhn, and “You’re the white man’s puppet,” and all this stuff, when I’m just preaching love and unity. I saw something special in what we were doing. I’m willing to tell my story to figure it out.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Do you want Greg Glassman to stay in control of CrossFit? I should have asked you that a few questions ago. You mentioned possibilities about how he could see control or how that could potentially work. Do you want him to stay in charge?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

 I’m going to say something that’s either totally popular right now or totally unpopular. People are going to say, “I can’t believe you said that.” Within the CrossFit community, what are we going to do? Are we going to take Dave in as the CEO and let him run things? Do we feel as though he’s the guy for us to take us into the future? How do we actually feel about that?

 

Is it something that we have to take the entire board out, entire HQ, just burn the whole thing down and then revamp the entire thing? Is it salvageable? The issue that people don’t seem to understand is that I’m part of that conversation no matter what happens. I am totally putting my reputation on the line because I have made mistakes.

 

I saw something and what I was able to do in this community, that for this brief moment in time, is worth fighting for. If this guy goes on Twitter tonight and says some other news, I’m totally done. You’ll never hear me or drop CrossFit ever again in my life. I’ll tell him it was a total mistake. I’m willing to say, “I know this guy. He got out of contact.”

 

Especially when I started getting the emails from those conversations within HQ about 2009. They were like, “Man, this guy. He just tried to play the race card on us, man. This guy, he’s just trying to use us.” I was like, “Yeah, I’m trying to use you for something good.” They just didn’t understand what I was doing. This is my time.

 

I’ll tell you this. Those guys I mentioned, Robb Wolf, they had their own certification. Melissa Urban, she’s got a seminar that I used to go to in CrossFit gyms. This is something that, you’re damn, you’re looking at me becoming a SME on this. I’ve been talking about this from day one. Something beautiful can come out of this.

 

That’s what Greg said when we first talked about this on Tuesday. He’s like, “Listen man, let’s make this tragedy into a triumph.” How could I not fight for that? My point is, to the CrossFitters I know, “Do you want Dave? Do you feel comfortable with that? Should we take a poll of that? Should we vote for that? Are we going to say, “This guy made a mistake.”?

 

Maybe we put some things in place that he can’t do. We take his control out of his hands of certain things that he can’t do. Then we just move forward. I think it’s worth trying to say, “Hey, listen, this guy made a mistake. He got off track. We all do to a certain extent.”

 

If you’ve been honest with yourself, we’re not 100 percent all the time. We do some dumb things. Can we forgive this guy? Can we fix this? A lot of people that I’m seeing are like, “You got to see what this guy is going to say, man.” I asked about Rich. Rich pretty much said, “Let’s see if they do the right thing, man.” That’s why I’m out with it.

 

Let’s see if the guy does the right thing. To make that happen, he’s got to show up with the money. You got to show us the money. I don’t mean to get Jerry Maguire on it, but you got to show us the money or we got to deal with this now.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

You think one route that Glassman in CrossFit HQ could take is a firm financial commitment to the black community?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

It’s a firm commitment to the program. I mean, it’s to the inner cities. If you’re anywhere like Harlem, it’s a little different now. It’s not as brown or black as it used to be. Now, we got some white in here, and they got struggles too. We got Russians in here, they got struggles too.

 

It’s about community, man. The same thing we built. When you’re sitting there with the guy right next to you and you’re in the middle of the workout. That shit sounds so cheesy but I ain’t saying that but it’s true.

 

You’re in that three minutes, that guy right next to you, are you trying to find the right Trump supporter to help you pound your reps? No, man. You’ll take on that guy right there. You don’t care what his background is.

 

You high five and you damn near kiss him because he got you through a serious moment in your life. He was right there in that moment with you. I think it’s beautiful.

David TaoDavid Tao

Syn, thank you very much for joining us and giving your thoughts. We covered a pretty wide range of topics during a time where the community is very much looking for answers and very much unclear as to what comes next.

 

Where is the best place for people to keep up-to-date with the work you’re doing and for your continued thoughts?

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

Facebook has been my focus group. If anybody does follow me on Facebook, they know. Most of you all have been following me for 10 years. I usually use that for ideas I come with.

 

It’s my safe space. It’s filling up quick but you could do that and @SynMartinez. Of course, on Instagram, it’s @afrobrutality. Then a lot of people, all of a sudden, my personal page became the thing.

 

I’m @mr.syn on Instagram. I post everything and how I’m feeling. I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m posting results. I’m trying to challenge the community. I want us to talk. If there’s some problems, let’s talk about it.

 

I’m posting things like, “You said this guy’s not a cult leader. Why are you acting like this as a cult when he does something wrong? We need to seize control. We need to take care of what’s ours, man. We don’t need to run.” I’m sorry, I’m on my shit. I’m sorry, dude. I’ve had a long day. I apologize.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

It’s a platform for your thoughts and everyone’s got different thoughts. I appreciate you sharing.

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

 

I hope I did all right. How did I do? I did OK?

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I’m not the judge of that.

My job’s easy. I get to sit here and ask questions. Syn, I do appreciate your time. I do appreciate you sharing with me on what are your thoughts of your perspective.

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

 

If you do not post that picture of you and my stuff with the Afro-man, we’re going to have problems.

You still have that picture, right?

David TaoDavid Tao

 

I don’t know if I still have that photo.

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

 

You know I got it. I’ll send it right to you.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

There’s a disclaimer that I still have a lot of Syn’s T-shirts in my closet from back in the day.

They got me through some tough workouts. Let’s put it that way.

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

 

Way to go. That’s what it’s about.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

Syn, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

Syn MartinezSyn Martinez

 

You have a good night.

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