It seems 2020 is the year of accountability and Reebok is leading the way in its industry. The company announced Sunday that it would end a corporate partnership with CrossFit following racist tweets by CrossFit founder Greg Glassman. “Our partnership with CrossFit HQ comes to an end later this year,” Reebok told the Associated Press. “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.”
Gyms across the country followed suit and also announced they would no longer support the brand. “We owe this to the CrossFit Games competitors, fans and the community,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement.
In response to a tweet Saturday by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) calling racism a public issue, Glassman replied “It’s Floyd-19.” He then continued to say that the institute’s coronavirus model was not only a failure but a reason for quarantine and belittled the institute for modeling a “solution to racism.” To make matters worse, the popular brand founder criticized protests and movements across the nation sparked from the brutal murder of George Floyd.
“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,'” he tweeted. His tweets quickly went viral prompting a response from several users online in addition to corporate partners.
As a result of the backlash, Glassman and his company issued a statement Sunday apologizing for the ignorant tweets. “I, CrossFit HQ, and the CrossFit community will not stand for racism,” Glassman said. “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.”
The non-apology followed community members, influencers, gyms, and partnerships all declaring they would disassociate with the company. “This issue is much bigger than sport, yet sport and the functional fitness space has a really important part to play. Sport and fitness bring us together and unite us in such a powerful and profound way. I want my platform to drive positivity, unity and the overall message that no matter your skin colour or cultural background, we should all inspire one another to be the best versions of themselves,” CrossFit Games champion Tia-Clair Toomey said on Instagram.
“My future with Crossfit is unclear and depends on the direction of HQ. I will continue to stand against ignorance and stand alongside those who fight abuse, hatred and racism,” she added. Other CrossFit athletes also took to social media to express their disappointment and withdrawal from the regimen.
Had he not been held accountable for his actions, it is unclear if Glassman would have apologized for his words. Prior to these tweets, Glassman and his company have both stayed silent on social media in regards to the racial justice movement.
Many gyms across the country that use the fitness model or have the “CrossFit” name included in their branding are dropping it, The Washington Post reported. Humble Beast Fitness, a gym in Washington, D.C., shared a message with the news outlet that expressed its decision to drop “CrossFit” from its name years after its affiliation with the company. “As owners and employees of a CrossFit gym, my husband and I have been serving the DC community for the past 6 years. 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,” the message said.
Another gym in the area announced on Instagram Sunday it was “frustrated from the lack of leadership from CrossFit HQ and their tone-deaf and inadequate responses in addressing the recent crises in the USA,” and would also take steps to end involvement.
Just like people, brands and companies must be held accountable for their responses and questionable content in addition to microaggressions and racism that they enforce. Issuing a statement on social media that a company embraces diversity and supports human rights is not enough. Brands should not only use their platforms to advocate against issues of injustice but must uphold their commitments by creating an equitable workplace.
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