After CrossFit Founder Jokes About George Floyd, Reebok, Gyms Drop Brand

Within 48 hours of Greg Glassman's comment Saturday night, several gyms disassociated themselves from the CrossFit brand, the athletic apparel company Reebok ended its corporate sponsorship, and equipment supplier Rogue Fitness said it would remove the company logo from a 2020 event.

After CrossFit Founder Jokes About George Floyd, Reebok, Gyms Drop Brand

Greg Glassman's tweet appeared to make light of George Floyd's death and coronavirus.

The tweet from CrossFit founder Greg Glassman, which appeared to make light of both the death of George Floyd and the novel coronavirus pandemic, had an electric effect.

Within 48 hours of Glassman's comment Saturday night, several gyms disassociated themselves from the CrossFit brand, the athletic apparel company Reebok ended its corporate sponsorship, and equipment supplier Rogue Fitness said it would remove the company logo from a 2020 event.

The moves come after more than a week of corporate statements, Instagram posts and CEO tweets following the massive protests sweeping the country, as companies voice their opposition to racism and support of the Black Lives Matter movement amid escalating pressures from consumers and employees.

But as the statements have piled up, many on social media have called for companies to do more than offer statements about standing against racism or posting a hashtag with a plain black image on their feed.

"People don't want to hear words -- they want to see action," said Karen Boykin-Towns, a senior counselor for the communications firm Sard Verbinnen & Co. who is also vice chairman of the NAACP national board of directors.

Besides cutting business ties, companies are making donations to civil rights organizations, finding ways to support black-owned businesses or saying they will do more to promote diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Uber said in a statement it will charge no delivery fees for orders from black-owned restaurants and plans to offer discounted rides to black-owned small businesses. PwC said it is creating a staff advisory counsel on diversity and inclusion and will share its diversity progress and goals with employees starting this summer. And the beauty site Glossier said it is donating $500,000 to organizations focused on racial injustice as well as another $500,000 in grants to black-owned beauty businesses.

Glassman was responding Saturday to a tweet posted by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), in which the research center declared, "Racism is a public health issue."

"It's FLOYD-19," replied Glassman, 63.

That sparked outrage among some owners of CrossFit gyms, or "boxes," as they're called, that pay fees of several thousands of dollars annually to license the brand.

Humble Beast Fitness, a gym in Washington, D.C., that is dropping "CrossFit" from its name, said in a message to its community that it provided to The Washington Post: "CrossFit has a unique opportunity to recognize racial injustice and address health inequity, yet they choose not to. We have decided to discontinue our affiliate moving forward."

Another D.C. facility, Balance Gym, announced Sunday: "It has become evident that our values don't match those of CrossFit HQ and we are actively taking steps to move forward without their involvement." It said it was "deeply disappointed" by recent comments made by Glassman, and "frustrated from the lack of leadership from CrossFit HQ and their tone-deaf and inadequate responses in addressing the recent crises in the USA."

Maryland's CrossFit Silver Spring and Portland's CrossFit Primal Energy also said they are cutting ties with CrossFit.

"We stand with the black community," CrossFit Silver Spring owner Josh Dempsey said. "The only way to move forward is together."

CrossFit's national headquarters did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but late Sunday the company's Twitter account posted the following message, attributed to Glassman:

"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.

"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," Glassman wrote.

"It's our hope that his murder catalyzes real change resulting in a level playing field for our black brothers and sisters," Glassman continued. "Please hear me when I say, we stand by our community to fight for justice. I care about you, our community, and I am here for you."

Earlier Sunday, Glassman had linked to his "FLOYD-19" tweet while implying in another post that coronavirus-related quarantines did more harm than good and contributed to episodes of violence during and after protests related to Floyd's death.

"Your failed model quarantined us and now you're going to model a solution to racism? George Floyd's brutal murder sparked riots nationally," Glassman told the IHME.

Rogue Fitness, the supplier of strength and conditioning equipment, said on Facebook that Glassman's comments "are unacceptable under all conditions" and that "the future is dependent on the direction and leadership within CrossFit HQ. Rogue has been the equipment provider since 2010 and we believe it is part of our DNA. We hope there is a path forward."

A spokesman for Reebok, Jason Silva, said the company would not comment on the tweets but provided a statement to The Post that said, "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.

"What doesn't change is our commitment and dedication to CrossFitters and the passionate CrossFit community," Reebok said. Last week, the company issued a statement saying: "Without the black community, Reebok would not exist. We are not asking you to buy our shoes. We are asking you to walk in someone else's."

Dorothy Brown, a law professor at Emory University's school of law who studies economic injustice, said that seeking distance from a company CEO who makes comments like Glassman is "low-hanging fruit," and that companies also should be transparent about their own diversity issues and what they're doing internally to change.

"What are the statistics on black executives? Have they done audit studies to see that their black workers are being paid what their white workers are?" she said, noting that nearly all of the corporate actions she's seeing still feel "performative."

"I think they expect their performance to be enough because in the past, their performance has always been enough. We're in a different moment," she said. "Now people are saying 'OK, but what about you? What are you doing to make people in your institutions feel like black lives matter?' "

One response she noted as powerful was Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian's announcement Saturday he had resigned from the company's board and had urged directors to name a black candidate to replace him.

Ohanian, who is married to tennis star Serena Williams, said on Instagram he made the decision "as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: 'What did you do?' "He also said he would pledge $1 million to Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp and use future gains from his Reddit stock to "serve the black community, chiefly to curb racial hate."

An owner of a gym in Portland that is dropping its CrossFit affiliation told The Post he was "never made to feel that I was truly a part of that community, as a black man."

"In all of the gyms that I was a member at, I was always welcomed, and people were friendly," Nick Hurndon said, "but in the broader CrossFit community, there was never any attempt to focus on diversity or issues around the black community."

A 44-year-old who has been involved in CrossFit since 2009 and has owned CrossFit Magnus - soon to be renamed Magnus Strength and Conditioning - since 2012, Hurndon said he was "both not surprised and shocked" by Glassman's "Floyd-19" tweet.

"It was just completely tone-deaf and showed . . . they are just completely disinterested in black lives, and listening and learning," he said. Hurndon noted that by the time the tweet was sent, his gym had already decided to end its affiliation with CrossFit and had sent the company a letter to that effect hours earlier.

In a blog post published last week, Alyssa Royse, the owner of Seattle's Rocket CrossFit and an influential figure in the community, shared a letter she sent to Glassman and another top executive at CrossFit, Brian Mulvaney, in which she warned the company that it was potentially damaging its brand and alienating affiliates with social-media posts that referred to the coronavirus pandemic in cringeworthy ways, as well as with its silence on the Floyd killing.

"Incoherent brand identity and absent leadership are especially detrimental to a relationship when combined with moral ambiguity," Royse wrote. "CrossFit is the only major brand I can think of that has failed to take a stand, make a statement, show support for social justice in general and Black lives in specific."

Royse also shared an image of an email she got in response from Glassman, who began it by saying, "I sincerely believe the quarantine has adversely affected your mental health."

"You're doing your best to brand us as racist and you know it's [expletive]," Glassman wrote, according to the image in Royse's post.

Anthony Johndrow, an adviser on corporate reputation issues, said he's been getting a lot of questions from companies about what they should do after they make a statement in support of the protests.

"It's imperative - yes - they need to be ready to act, but the next step has got to be listening. These companies are for the most part run by people who are not black Americans," he said. "They need to listen to black Americans; they need to understand what's expected of them."

He said they should expect more scrutiny of their own practices of advancing and employing black workers, and of how they are spending their lobbying dollars. "It's not a one and done. This is not something that's going to be fixed by writing a check."

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)