CrossFit co-founder and CEO Greg Glassman has been under fire since he published a racist tweet on Saturday. Glassman criticized the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which has been behind some of the leading coronavirus data after they shared support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Glassman later apologized for the comment, but only after Reebok and major athletes cut ties with CrossFit.
On Saturday, IHME tweeted their support for protests of systemic racism and police brutality, acknowledging racism as a "public health issue" that demands an "urgent response." People have been protesting in all 50 states for two weeks since George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd was killed when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes, even after Floyd lost consciousness. Floyd's death, along with the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other African Americans, inspired calls for criminal justice reforms.
These recent deaths "testify to the racial injustice that persists across our country and within our communities," IHME Director Christopher Murray wrote in a statement. "We share in the outrage and anguish expressed around the United States in response to the treatment of Black Americans by the police and the toll of police killings. And similar injustices are pervasive in many other parts of the world." Murray said the institute would work to "produce the evidence that racism and discrimination" are essential public health issues that need to be addressed.
Glassman tweeted 'it's FLOYD-19'
Your failed model quarantined us and now you're going to model a solution to racism? 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!— Greg Glassman (@CrossFitCEO) June 7, 2020
Glassman responded to IHME's statement by simply tweeting "it's FLOYD-19." He then lashed out in a follow-up tweet, writing, "Your failed model quarantined us and now you're going to model a solution to racism? 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!" The IHME has been tracking the coronavirus pandemic since it began and is now predicting deaths from COVID-19 could reach 145,728 in the U.S. by August.
Rogue Fitness takes a stand against Glassman's tweets
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Glassman's tweets caused an instant outcry and began costing CrossFit partnerships. Fitness equipment maker Rogue Fitness, which has provided gear for the CrossFit Games since 2010, dropped the CrossFit logo from the Rogue Invitational. Rogue also shared a statement on Instagram, distancing itself from Glassman's comments. "His comments are unacceptable under all conditions," the statement read. "The community is bigger than one person. The movement is stronger than one person. No one should be expected to tolerate anything that keeps us from moving forward as one."
CrossFit Games Champion Jason Khalipa's gym is no longer affiliated
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Jason Khalipa, the 2008 CrossFit Games champion and NCFIT founder, completely cut ties with Glassman and CrossFit. NCFIT was affiliated with CrossFit for over a decade, but the company said it can no longer work with Glassman. "We have been an affiliate for more than 10-years, but we can no longer continue along this path," NCFIT said. "We owe it to our team, members, and the greater community to stand for something better than what we are witnessing."
Reebok cuts sponsorship deal
Reebok had a 10-year deal as the main CrossFit sponsor and licensee for the brand's apparel. That deal is no more. "Our partnership with CrossFit HQ comes to an end later this year," the company told Forbes. "Recently, we have been in discussions regarding a new agreement, however, in light of recent events, we have made the decision to end our partnership with CrossFit HQ."
More than 200 gyms have cut ties with CrossFit
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Gyms across the country also cut ties with CrossFit. Alyssa Royse changed the name of her Seattle gym from Rocket CrossFit to Rocket Community Fitness. She told CNN it was "really painful" that CrossFit never made any comments on social justice or the coronavirus pandemic. Morning Chalk Up reported 210 gyms dropped their affiliation with CrossFit. "I had a long relationship with upper leadership at HQ. I was really worried that they were making this colossal misstep not only in the arc of justice but in the health of the brand," Royse, who told CrossFit executives she was dropping the affiliation on June 3, told CNN.
Glassman apologized, but said he was 'trying to stick it to' the IHME
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. I was trying to stick it to the @IHME_UW for their invalidated models resulting in needless, economy-wrecking, life-wrecking lockdown,— CrossFit (@CrossFit) June 8, 2020
Glassman later issued an apology on the official CrossFit Twitter account, but he still stood by his criticism of the IHME. Glassman said he was "deeply saddened" by the pain his original tweet caused and said it was "not racist but a mistake." He was "trying to stick it to" the IHME "for their invalidated models resulting in needless, economy-wrecking, life-wrecking lockdown, and when I saw they were announcing modeling a solution to our racial crisis, I was incredulous, angry, and overly emotional. Involving George Floyd's name in that effort was wrong." At the end of the message, Glassman said he hoped Floyd's murder leads to "real change resulting in a level playing field for our black brothers and sisters."