We are a little under a year out from the Twitter comment that Greg Glassman made referring to what was going on in this country as “Floyd-19.” The response across the country and the international community was an uproar of anger. Rightfully so. The insensitive response to a loss of life and systemic racism deserves that sort of response. I’m genuinely left wondering two things. First, did we give any credit to the good Glassman did? Second, have gyms put their money where their mouth is after leaving the Crossfit Brand?
In response to the first question, I think the answer is no. Greg Glassman’s model of fitness has changed the world in three areas and no one seems to care. The first and most obvious change is in the world of fitness. The second is job/wealth creation. The third and final is community creation. All of these things seem to be completely ignored in his forced retirement aside from a letter sent out from Crossfit HQ.
Crossfit made fitness a sport. Personally it made me enjoy something I begrudgingly did every single day and that was making the trip into the gym. Instead of showing up and hitting 4 sets of 10-12 reps for maximum muscle growth I learned how to make fitness a game I enjoyed competing in due to Crossfit. My whole family does crossfit, my mother has lost 100 pounds because of the gym we built in my garage that we all crossfit in. I have watched countless people who have never enjoyed a single moment in the gym flock to the boxes created by Glassman’s brand.
My own experiences are not enough to drive this point home. This nation was losing the battle against obesity and disease. We were falling off of the edge and into the deep end of making the “Wall-E” world a reality. Things like heart disease and diabetes were crushing Americans. Then Crossfit came in and a world began to grow where people said no to refined carbohydrates, sedentary lifestyles, and low bone density. That world grew because of Glassman’s model.
I cannot find another example of an industry that had such an impact on individual health and also created a business model with such low barriers to entry. At the beginning of Crossfit, any individual anywhere had the opportunity to start their own business for close to 10K and in year one receive a 10x return on investment. Yes, these numbers vary from case to case but for the most part, every single gym owner I know corroborates these kinds of returns. Having the ability as a 20 something-year-old to go out and find a shack with four walls, put a pull-up rig inside of it and make that kind of money was unprecedented.
This discussion does not even touch the multi-million dollar brands who expanded their offering or were built on the backs of the sport of CrossFit. I would say, Rogue, Reebok, and Nobull owe a majority of their revenue to the market created by a man named Greg Glassman. I’d be interested to see what those organizations would look like in the absence of Crossfit. I have no doubt they would have figured it out, but the aid they received from the CrossFit industry is undeniable.
I think this is the part I struggle with the most based on Glassman’s actions. I coached at close to 8 CrossFit gyms as a CF-L1, CF-L2, and Crossfit Kids coach. I know hundreds of people and have meaningful relationships with them because of Crossfit. An entire table at my wedding was filled with my Crossfit family. My military career forced a lot of moves in my life. I never had to worry about finding friends in each place I moved to as long as I found a local Crossfit gym. My family built relationships with the people they met at the gyms across the world. I watched athletes I coached get married and have children.
At a time when technology drove us further apart Glassman’s model brought us all closer together. At this point is where I must admit something that was wrong with said community. It was mostly white and wealthy. I will not venture to guess why or what forced that but it was. Of the eight gyms, I coached at I watched a single owner open up her gym to individuals who came from a lower socioeconomic standing. She caught shit because of it and did it anyway. I respect her for taking that action. This brings me to my second question stated initially.
Morning Chalk Up, reported that over 1,000 CrossFit affiliates dropped their affiliation and distanced themselves from Crossfit HQ. We vote for politicians every 2-4 years but we vote with our dollars every day. I respect those affiliates who took action to demonstrate they would not condone Glassman’s racist comments. I am curious to know how much of an impact refusing to pay a 5,000 dollar annual affiliation fee had on our anger toward the lack of equality at Crossfit HQ. Yes it forced Glassman out and I think that was needed, but what else have CrossFit gyms done to put their money where their mouth is?
I wonder how many of the 1,000 that disaffiliated also began to make an honest and concerted effort to lower their monthly memberships in order to allow individuals with lower incomes to access their gyms. I understand that this is a tough thing to do in the pandemic but I am excited to see how many of them do so. Especially when we return to 100% indoor capacity in gyms across the nation.
I’ve never been one to accept blaming others for issues. Instead, I believe we should take action when and where we can. For Crossfit gym owners that means making a concerted effort to change the color, sexual orientation, and income distribution of your membership. It’s your job to stop your gym from looking like a country club if you really want it to. As members of the CrossFit community, it’s our job to ask ourselves how we can take the same actions.
Until then I don’t know how Glassman will be remembered in history. I pity the man because he made a pretty stupid comment that unraveled his entire World. I don’t know where he was taking the organization in his final years as C.E.O. and personally, I look forward to what Castro is able to do. Until then I am thankful for the contributions Glassman made and I think more affiliate owners would do well to remember that the man gave them a blueprint to earn a living. Much like this nation, our affiliate owners, and Crossfit HQ have a lot of work to do. I wish them the best of luck.
John McCarthy is a Father, Son, Husband and former Marine Infantry Officer. He serves his local community and just wants to push people to be better humans. Check out the Tough Talk Podcast and other writings on this website to learn more.