I'm a Black Gym Owner. Here's Why I'm Cutting Ties with CrossFit.
Photo credit: André Crews
From men's health
The CrossFit community fluctuates after the company's founder and CEO, Greg Glassman, was forced to withdraw from his position after turmoil over his racist public and private comments on George Floyd. When athletes like Mat Fraser denounced the company and others like Katrin Davidsdottir called for even more extensive changes (Glassman retains ownership of CrossFit Inc. and much of the company's leadership structure remains), many local gym owners began to disaffiliate themselves the business unit.
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André Crews is one of these gym owners. As the chief of Jersey City's 150BayFit, Crews knew he would be done with CrossFit as soon as he got wind of Glassman's comments. Here he shares why he is breaking connections with CrossFit in his own words - and what hopes he has for the future.
When I first trained in a CrossFit box, I felt like I couldn't breathe.
I was at CrossFit NYC and received my Level 1 certificate. At the end of our first day, the seminar staff let us do the CrossFit benchmark training “Fran”, in which 45 engines (squatting at 95 lbs in the overhead press) and 45 pull-ups were completed as quickly as possible.
About 45 reps after training with 90 reps, my heart was racing, my body was shaking, and my lungs were burning. Seven minutes and 10 seconds later, I finished my last workout and fell to the floor.
My neck felt hot and cold at the same time.
I started to cough.
And I thought I couldn't breathe.
But after a few minutes I got up, fucked a few other athletes, drank some water and was back to normal in an hour. Although elite CrossFit athletes can finish Fran in about two minutes, I was overwhelmingly proud of what I had achieved. At that time I contacted the management of CrossFit headquarters to learn about their knowledge in the areas of exercise, nutrition and exercise science. I was really excited for my future in the CrossFit community and started 150 Bay CrossFit in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Seven years and three months later, George Floyd was suffocated for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Most companies, organizations, and people around the world responded with an outbreak of heartache and support for social justice and equality. Nevertheless, CrossFit HQ remained remarkably silent. Thirteen days later, CrossFit owner and CEO Greg Glassman tweeted "FLOYD-19". Sure, he's stepped down as CrossFit CEO since then, but that doesn't stop me from leaving CrossFit. Dave Castro is responsible now, but understand that: Greg Glassman still owns CrossFit.
The day after I saw Glassman's tweet for the first time. I was disgusted, disappointed, horrified, angry ... angry. And I would be lying if I said I wasn't hurt. The pillar of leadership, thoughtful philosophy, and fitness skills that I once looked up to broke down with a single tweet.
I immediately turned to my wife and said somberly: "We are no longer at CrossFit."
I had more information to collect, but when I looked into the situation, my decision was a breeze due to the callous insensitivity and obvious racism of the tweet. Glassman had called the name of a man who was essentially executed while begging for his life and had linked him to a virus that had claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
I should be incredulous that the owner and CEO of an organization that I loved, respected, and who owed the start of my business could say something so heartless.
But the truth is ...
As a black man, I'm never really surprised when a white man says or does something terrible and racist. Our country was literally built on the backs of black men and women. And deep systemic racism is still evident in our economic differences, educational inequalities, the criminal justice system and government policies.
So it is not shocking to me that there is racism at the highest level in the fitness industry.
The next day I learned more. In a private zoom call to some related owners, Glassman said, "We don't mourn George Floyd - I don't think I or my associates are." And when it came to global protests, he pondered, "I very much doubt they mourning for Floyd. I don't think there is a general mourning for Floyd in any church. "[Editor's note: Crews was not on the zoom call.]
Greg Glassman may have founded CrossFit, but he's a cancer-stricken hand in the CrossFit community. For years he showed CrossFits operation, programming and training in a sensible direction. However, in the past three years, he's sent employees back by firing the entire CrossFit HQ marketing team. He backed affiliate owners by deleting CrossFit's two million follower social media account used to promote affiliates around the world. And he backwarded athletes by eliminating global regional events that were another platform for athletes and partners to showcase their talents and attract new members and customers.
Fortunately, Greg Glassman is not tied to a vital organ. He is nowhere near the heart and soul of the CrossFit community.
There is no cure for coronavirus yet. There is still no solution to police brutality against blacks. However, there is a known effective treatment for malignant tumors in our society: you cut them off. We have to do this to Glassman.
Glassman may have developed the marketing strategy and helped publicize the 21-15-9 replay program. But we as a community of bankers, bartenders, engineers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, first aiders, teachers, mothers who stay at home and fitness professionals ... WE are the fitness community that has made all of this work.
Photo credit: André Crews
We use the repetitions every day. We are sweating. We're bleeding. We tear. And sometimes we cry. And in our communities we have made drinking friends, best friends and even life partners.
Greg Glassman has slowly killed the CrossFit name in recent years. His tweet just let us know what was in his heart. It also provided a necessary nail in the coffin.
The group fitness continues. But racism has to stop.
I ask all partner owners and athletes to examine your heart and do the right thing. Greg Glassman may have withdrawn from the role of CEO. But he still has CrossFit to this day.
We can all continue to lead our communities into functional fitness without paying $ 3,000 a year to a racist megalomaniac.
My gym, 150 BayFit, will be here for at least the next two decades - we have a long-term lease. Our training philosophy is and always has been: Exercise well. Lift heavy. Breathe hard! We will continue to squat under the parallel, improve our Olympic lifting technique, improve our gymnastics strength and skills, lift heavy shit and do more burpees than we want to count.
And we will test our Fran time again at regular intervals.
We will continue to move well, lift heavily and breathe heavily! However, we will do this without paying any money to an organization founded and owned by a man who does not take into account people's physical, mental, emotional, financial, or fatal wellbeing.
So if you live in Jersey City, visit us. And if you live somewhere else, Google supports a “functional gym”. Support a local company, get fit and find great friends.
We will survive without CrossFit. CrossFit cannot survive without us!
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