Reebok is ending its partnership with fitness brand CrossFit, setting off a series of cancellations by partnering companies and athletes. The separation follows an insensitive tweet by CrossFit’s founder Greg Glassman. After the Institute for Health Metric and Evaluation categorized racism as a public health issue, Glassman quipped, “It’s FLOYD-19.”
CrossFit’s Deafening Silence
As countless companies have expressed unambiguous support for nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd, CrossFit, the national fitness and lifestyle brand, has remained notably quiet.
Though CrossFit publicized support for veterans on Memorial Day, and the LGBT community amid Pride month, it has made few comments about racial justice, or shown any overt support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
On June 6th, the Institute for Health Metric and Evaluation (IHME) tweeted that “Racism and discrimination are critical public health issues that demand an urgent response,” adding the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
In response to the tweet, Glassman made his “It’s FLOYD-19” comment, which conflates the name of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of a police officer set off massive protests against police brutality with COVID-19, the coronavirus disease that has already financially plagued CrossFit. Glassman had previously stated that he thought the IHME had overreacted in its response to the global pandemic.
Reebok Took Swift Action
Only days after the initial tweet, Reebok announced it would cut ties with the CrossFit brand, ending an exclusive 10-year deal wherein Reebok was the main licensee for CrossFit apparel.
“Our partnership with CrossFit HQ comes to an end later this year,” Reebok explained in a statement. “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.”
Others Follow Suit
Other brands and athletes quickly followed Reebok’s lead in condemning CrossFit and suspending partnerships.
Rocket CrossFit, an affiliate based in Seattle, announced that it would disaffiliate with the franchise. Alyssa Royse, the owner of the gym, later published a nasty email from Glassman, wherein he accuses her of doing her best to “brand us as racist,” which, Glassman contends, “is complete bulls**t.”
But Royse is not alone in the fitness world. Some 200 gyms have now disaffiliated with the CrossFit brand amid the PR disaster. Rogue Fitness, which supplies equipment to CrossFit Games, says it would not be putting the CrossFit logo on its items during production. Rogue noted it was still in discussion with event organizers about the best way to respond.
Additionally, athletes Rich Froning, Tia-Claire Toomey and Noah Ohlsen have all denounced Glassman’s comment, and have expressed hesitation to participate in the Games.
Greg Glassman, who founded CrossFit 20 year ago, addressed the controversy on the CrossFit Twitter account:
“I, CrossFit HQ, and the CrossFit community will not stand for racism. I made a mistake by the words I chose yesterday. My heart is deeply saddened by the pain it has caused. It was a mistake, not racist but a mistake.”
Explaining the reason for his initial tweet, he wrote “I was trying to stick it to the @IHME_UW 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.”
All tweets in question are still up on Twitter.