2020 has been a year of change and a year of learning. One defining social shift came after the death of George Floyd, the Black Minneapolis man who died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Unrest erupted all over the country, with millions continued to march and protest police brutality and systemic racism.
CrossFit didn’t immediately condemn Floyd’s death. In fact, far from it. Initially, then-CEO Greg Glassman stayed mum on the issue, right up until he tweeted an inappropriate and, some felt, racially insensitive comment regarding the nation’s call for racial justice.
Glassman has since resigned as CEO of the CrossFit corporation (though, it should be noted, he is still the owner and continues to receive profits). New leadership, including incoming CEO Eric Roza, promises to change the landscape of CrossFit, making it more diverse, inclusive, and accessible for people of all backgrounds.
A History of Exclusion?
Since CrossFit’s inception in 2000, it’s suffered from a lack of diversity. While the reasons are many and varied, the end result is an often-exclusionary brand that exists mostly of white and relatively wealthy members, primarily men.
If you look at the leaderboards from past CrossFit Games, you won’t see much in the way of ethnic variety. And my guess is your local box is much the same way.
However, it’s a fair assumption that CrossFit as a whole – the athletes, affiliates, and leadership – want to change that narrative and build a more inclusive environment.
How CrossFit Affiliates Can Be More Inclusive
CEO Eric Roza is off to a great start. He acknowledged that Glassman’s tweet (and his leaked email) caused hurt not only for communities of color but also for white athletes who compete under the CrossFit name.
In his first public speech, Roza reiterated that racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination have no place in CrossFit. He created a team of leaders – many of whom are people of color, women, or are from other marginalized groups. And, Roza says, the brand will be taking a closer look at the economic disparity between areas where CrossFit is available and places where it is not.
Reduce Economic Barriers
It’s no secret that CrossFit isn’t cheap. Monthly fees are sometimes double – or even triple – what we would pay for a standard gym membership. And while those of us who love CrossFit think the price is worth every penny, it’s easy to forget that there is a considerable portion of the population for whom that cost is simply out of reach.
Therefore, one way to encourage diversity is to bring CrossFit to impoverished neighborhoods. Perhaps that means annual affiliate fees go towards creating free or reduced-cost programs for underserved areas, allowing access to a broader range of participants.
Speak Out Against Racism
Inclusion starts with us. While it is incredibly important for CrossFit leadership to promote inclusion in the sport as a whole, the real change happens in each individual box, with each individual athlete.
It’s up to us to call out racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination when we see it. We cannot allow it in our gyms, in our communities, or in our homes. If we genuinely want to see changes in this sport we love – and we want to see more diverse communities getting involved – then it’s up to us to create welcoming and affirming environments.
As CrossFit athletes, we should all expect and require inclusion in our sport. Eric Roza and his team have committed to creating a more diverse community that allows people from all walks of life to participate. This means actively seeking out women, people of color, those with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups. And it means making them feel welcomed and celebrated.
We must also hold Roza and his leadership accountable. As part of CrossFit Corporate’s efforts to undo the harm caused by Glassman’s statements, the diversity and inclusion board created an email address where we can send our concerns: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s use that email to generate ideas and start a conversation about diversity and inclusion in our sport.
CrossFit is only truly great when it’s open and available to everyone who wants to compete.