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Reebok Ends CrossFit Contract Over CEO’s George Floyd Tweet; CEO: ‘Not Racist’
Reebok CrossFit footwear is seen on display during the Adidas AG earnings news conference in Herzogenaurach, Germany, on Thursday, March 7, 2013. Adidas AG, the world's second- largest sporting-goods maker, forecast higher sales and profit this year and raised its dividend by 35 percent as it targets fast-growing emerging markets and introduces new products. Photographer: Guenter Schiffmann/Bloomberg
Guenter Schiffmann/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A two-word tweet — or, technically, a three-word tweet with a contraction — posted by the founder and CEO of CrossFit in response to an influential COVID-19 modeler’s #BlackLivesMatter tweet has resulted in Reebok ending its partnership with the popular private gym chain.

The post the started it all was issued Saturday by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which produced one of the most influential pandemic models that helped prompt the widespread, economy-crippling lockdowns, which has hit gyms particularly hard.

“Racism and discrimination are critical public health issues that demand an urgent response,” IHME tweeted, hashtagging the post “#BlackLivesMatter” (tweet below). In a statement hyperlinked in the post, IHME Director Christopher Murray delivered a message of solidarity with protesters and pledged that IHME will focus on highlighting “the public health impacts of systemic racism”:

IHME can and will do more to illuminate the public health impacts of systemic racism. We will undertake research to address racial disparities in a range of areas, including life expectancy, child mortality, education, and economic opportunity. We will expand our work on COVID-19 to specifically examine the differential impacts of the disease by race. And we will make every effort to bring attention to police brutality. We will do this work while making our own organization more diverse and inclusive.  

In response to the tweet, CrossFit Founder and CEO Greg Glassman wrote, “It’s FLOYD-19.”

He later offered a follow-up on his initial, succinct post: “Your failed model quarantined us and now you’re going to model a solution to racism? 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!”

Glassman’s mocking post did not go ever well with Reebok, who quickly issued a statement Sunday announcing that it was cutting ties with his organization. In a statement reported by Footwear News on Sunday, Reebok said its partnership with CrossFit is officially over.

“Our partnership with CrossFit HQ comes to an end later this year,” the company said in the statement. “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.”

In response to the outrage, Glassman posted a statement Sunday on CrossFit’s Twitter page underscoring that the CrossFit community “will not stand for racism.” While Glassman said he made a “mistake” in his decision to use Floyd to mock the IHME, the comment was “not racist”:

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. I was trying to stick it to the [IHME] 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.

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.

As reported by Forbes, along with Reebok’s punitive decision, some Professional CrossFit athletes have also announced that they are considering parting ways with the organization, among them four-time CrossFit Games winner Rich Froning, who said Glassman’s post made it “impossible to stay loyal to leadership who make callous statements that alienate and divide in a time when unity is needed.”

Fellow CrossFit athletes Tia-Clair Toomey and Noah Ohlsen have also issued condemnatory statements on social media, Toomey writing writing that her “future with Crossfit is unclear and depends on the direction of HQ,” while Ohlsen says he will not compete in this year’s CrossFit games.

“CrossFit affiliate gym Rocket CrossFit, based in Seattle, said it will disaffiliate with the company, and in a blog post published a profanity-laden letter from Glassman that attacked the gym’s co-owner, Alyssa Royse, of trying to brand CrossFit as ‘racist,'” Forbes reports.

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