A series of tweets by CrossFit CEO and founder Greg Glassman has prompted affiliated gyms and a major sponsor to cancel their partnerships with the fitness regimen.
On Saturday evening, the 63-year-old replied to a post from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research center at the University of Washington, that called "racism and discrimination ... critical public health issues."
Glassman replied to the tweet by writing, "It's FLOYD-19" — alluding to both COVID-19 and George Floyd, the black man whose death in Minneapolis police custody has prompted nationwide protests over racial injustice.
In a follow-up tweet, he criticized the organization, which has been tracking the pandemic, for its support of the quarantine, and he also tied the coronavirus lockdown to protests over Floyd's death.
"Your failed model quarantined us and now you're going to model a solution to racism?" he wrote. "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!"
Afterward, many of Glassman's followers responded that his comments were "privileged," "arrogant" and "ignorant," among other criticisms.
One Twitter user explained: "I have been outspokenly critical of @IHME_UW's risk communication with respect to COVID-19. That is a reasonable disagreement. What you're doing here, Mr. Glassman, is emitting brain-dead gibberish that helps no one. I suggest that you sit down and listen to the adults."
Another added, "I’ve been waiting for this since like 2015 when the diabetes community came after him for saying ignorant things."
Some even demanded that advertisers and affiliated gyms across the country end their relationships with CrossFit Inc.
"#Crossfit is exposing itself as white supremacist. I’ve been doing CrossFit for 5 years and will no longer pay monthly dues to a box that continues its affiliation," one Twitter user wrote. "CrossFit friends: challenge your box to end its affiliation, now."
These calls to action were swiftly met, and several gyms shared their decision publicly.
Nick Hurndon, an owner and coach at CrossFit Magnus in Portland, Oregon, tweeted a letter on Saturday that he said he sent to CrossFit's headquarters.
"After eight years as a CrossFit affiliate, we are ending our affiliation," the tweet read. "Your response to the current movement to end systemic racism and police brutality is completely unacceptable and does not align with our values or beliefs."
Petworth Fitness in Washington, D.C., posted on Instagram on Saturday what it called "an open letter to CrossFit."
"This is a difficult letter to write, but we wish to inform you and as many other affiliates as we can: The inaction of CrossFit regarding anti-racism work is unacceptable, and as a result, we are choosing to disaffiliate from CrossFit," the post continued. "As a brand the preached about being 'for all,' the deafening silence on current and past issues of racism tell us all we need to know."
But the backlash didn't stop at just individual gym owners. Reebok, a major sponsor of the annual athletic competition the CrossFit Games, confirmed to TODAY in a statement that it's ending its partnership with the company.
"Our partnership with CrossFit HQ comes to an end later this year," it stated. "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. We will fulfill our remaining contractual obligations in 2020. We owe this to the CrossFit Games competitors, fans and the community."
On Sunday night, CrossFit's main Twitter account shared an apology on behalf of Glassman.
"I, CrossFit HQ, and the CrossFit community will not stand for racism," the tweet quoting Glassman read. "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."
He continued: "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. Involving George Floyd's name in that effort was wrong."
Glassman concluded: "It’s our hope that his murder catalyzes real change resulting in a level playing field for our black brothers and sisters. 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."