Some Canadian CrossFit gyms quickly disaffiliate from the brand after comments from the founder

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TORONTO – Darren Thornton is researching new names to rename CrossFit Defy, the gymnasium he owns with his wife Michelle in Toronto’s Leaside neighborhood.

He estimates that their 32-foot storefront sign alone will cost between $ 3,000 and $ 10,000 to replace.

But like some other gym owners across Canada, Thornton felt it was crucial to cut ties with the CrossFit brand, no matter the cost, after the insensitive comments by CrossFit founder Greg Glassman about the protests. of Black Lives Matter last weekend.

“It was kind of a final straw for me,” said Thornton.

On Saturday, the research firm Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation tweeted: “Racism is a public health problem”.

Glassman replied on his Twitter feed, “It’s Floyd-19”, a reference to both COVID-19 and George Floyd, who died two weeks ago after a white Minneapolis policeman pressed his knee around the neck for several minutes. The video-captured incident sparked protests around the world. Four Minneapolis officers were arrested when he died.

Glassman apologized for his tweet calling it a “mistake,” but the results were quick.

Bob Pain’s CrossFit Limestone Gymnasium in Kingston, Ont. Disaffiliated Monday morning, changing its name to Limestone Athletics.

“If we kept the name, some people might say, ‘You know what? I’m not going to do that, ”said Pain. “And nothing changes within our walls, nothing changes with our culture. ”

CrossFit, an exercise brand that incorporates movements such as high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, and weight training, was founded by Glassman and Lauren Jenai in 2000 in Santa Cruz, California. There are 13,000 affiliated gymnasiums worldwide.

CrossFit is not a franchise, and although coaches must be CrossFit certified, individual gyms are free to develop their own training programs.

Gyms, Pain explained, pay an annual membership fee on a sliding scale based on the year of registration. Membership fees for Canadian gymnasiums were $ 4,068 this year ($ 4,455 in Quebec).

The affiliation allows you to use the name CrossFit and the advertising advantages which result from it, as well as inclusion in the CrossFit Open, a competition for gymnasiums around the world which is the first qualifier for the World CrossFit Games.

Jason Darr, owner of CrossFit 604 at the Vancouver gymnasium with his wife Riley, said that the cost of membership is almost paid for the out-of-town visitors.

“We have built a very successful business using this name with the freedom to run our own business as we run it,” said Darr.

What drove the Darrs to disaffiliate, he said, was “the horrible and dignified identity of the CrossFit audience.

Darr noted that one of the awards for the 2016 CrossFit Games was a Glock handgun. The award sparked outrage from participants and prompted title sponsor Reebok to say in a statement, “Unfortunately, we have no comments regarding other partners or promotions.”

In 2018 Russell Berger, Chief Knowledge Officer of CrossFit, was fired after thanking an Indianapolis gym for “refusing to celebrate sin” after the gym canceled a month’s workout pride.

At the time, CrossFit tweeted that Berger’s opinions do not represent the brand or its diverse community. “It doesn’t matter who you are, how you are built, what you believe, or who or how you love – we are proud of you,” said the tweet, noting Berger’s termination.

Reebok announced Monday that it will cut ties with CrossFit after 10 years, saying in a statement that it is negotiating for a new contract, but that “in light of recent events, we have made the decision to end to our partnership with CrossFit HQ. We will fulfill our remaining contractual obligations in 2020. ”

CrossFit did not respond to a request for comment from the Canadian Press.

Thornton said that CrossFit is a brand his gym can no longer be proud of.

“It’s horrible because we have spent the past eight years building an incredible reputation as the best CrossFit gymnasium in the world and a) no one will want to look for a CrossFit gymnasium, and b) all that reputation that we have built, spent all the time and money is now worthless. So it’s a bit of a boost for us. ”

Thornton said cutting ties to the CrossFit brand would mean throwing around $ 10,000 worth of signage and merchandise. There are also additional costs in web development for the new brand and more. Financial concerns arise while gymnasiums across the country are still reeling from the effects of the global pandemic.

“Everyone is in such difficult times right now, and is this the time when you are going to screw up like this?” Said Darr, whose gymnasium of 420-450 members was allowed to reopen last week.

But taking a stand against racism and contempt for black lives is much more important than money, said Darr.

“Our business will be fine. ”

Glassman apologized, saying, “Me, CrossFit HQ and the CrossFit community will not stand up for racism. I was wrong about 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. ”

The apology was not enough for Katya Campbell, director of Power by You in Nelson, British Columbia.

“At a time when we desperately need courageous and fearless leadership, CrossFit has remained silent – and worse, offensive,” said Campbell. “Silence is no longer acceptable.

“We are a global community of people who come together to improve our health, strengthen our mind and body, and we do it together for a reason. Together we are stronger. At this important time in history, we must unite and be brave enough to speak out against systemic racism, moral ambiguity, and to examine our own value systems and see how we can have an impact that supports those who are marginalized. , victims of discrimination. and undervalued. ”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 9, 2020.

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