Meet Greg Glassman, the former CrossFit CEO whose comments about George Floyd torpedoed the company's relationships with brands, athletes, and gyms
Greg Glassman is the cofounder and former CEO of CrossFit, a fitness company that generates $4 billion in annual revenue, per Forbes.
Glassman has come under fire for an insensitive tweet and other alleged comments about George Floyd over the weekend as protests over Floyd's death and racial injustice sweep the country.
Reebok and many affiliate gyms have ended their partnerships with CrossFit as a result of Glassman's tweet, for which he has since apologized. Glassman stepped down as CEO of the popular fitness brand on June 9, saying "I cannot let my behavior stand in the way of HQ's or affiliates' missions." A former teenage gymnast and later a personal trainer, Glassman cofounded CrossFit with his then-wife in 2000. The 63-year-old fitness guru has been described as "charismatic, "contrarian," and "profane."
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Greg Glassman is the cofounder and CEO of CrossFit, a fitness company with a cult following that generates about $4 billion in annual revenue, per Forbes. Glassman is facing backlash for an insensitive tweet as well as alleged private comments he made about George Floyd over the weekend, as tens of thousands of people across the world continued to protest over Floyd's death and racial injustice. In response to a tweet from a health research institution that classified racism as a public health issue, Glassman tweeted, "It's FLOYD-19." Separately, a CrossFit affiliate gym owner alleges that, in a Zoom call with employees and gym owners over the weekend, Glassman said, "I do not mourn George Floyd" and seemed to downplay racism. Glassman has since apologized for his tweet about Floyd, but not before an outcry that saw Reebok, affiliate gyms, and athletes end their relationships with CrossFit. Per Morning Chalk Up, more than 100 affiliate gyms have cut ties with the brand so far, and CrossFit athletes are denouncing the CEO's comments and pledging to boycott the 2020 CrossFit Games. Glassman stepped down as CEO of the popular fitness brand on June 9, saying "I cannot let my behavior stand in the way of HQ's or affiliates' missions." "I'm stepping down as CEO of CrossFit, Inc., and I have decided to retire," he said in a statement. "On Saturday I created a rift in the CrossFit community and unintentionally hurt many of its members." Glassman cofounded CrossFit in 2000 with his then-wife, Lauren Jenai, and the brand has since grown to more than 15,000 affiliate gyms in the US and around the world. While the Washington Post has estimated Glassman's net worth at $100 million, Forbes, which tracks the wealth of the richest Americans, does not have an estimate for Glassman's net worth. CrossFit did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment for this story. Here's how Glassman went from a teenage gymnast to the CEO of a $4 billion brand.SEE ALSO: 9 fitness trends that were all the rage in the 2010s, from CrossFit to exergaming DON'T MISS: In a world without the gym, the demand for home workouts is soaring. Meet the influencers who have turned yoga videos and weight-lifting guides into fitness empires. Greg Glassman is the cofounder and CEO of CrossFit, a high-intensity workout regimen that's practiced in more than 15,000 affiliate gyms in the US and abroad, according to the company.
CrossFit is a workout regimen that combines elements of gymnastics, calisthenics, and Olympic powerlifting. Workouts are typically short and high-intensity. Many CrossFit workouts have women's' names like Angie, Barbara, or Fran in the way that storms and hurricanes typically have female names. Glassman is often quoted as saying that they are named as such because the workouts are so physically demanding that you feel like a storm has hit you. Per Box Rox fitness magazine, Glassman said, "I think anything that leaves you laying on your back gasping for air wondering what just happened to you should be named after a girl." There are more than 15,000 CrossFit affiliate gyms, or "boxes," in the US and abroad, and the company generates about $4 billion in annual revenue, per a 2015 Forbes estimate. Glassman himself could be worth as much as $100 million, per a Washington Post estimate. But Forbes, which tracks the wealth of the richest Americans, does not have an estimate for Glassman's net worth. Glassman, a teenage gymnast who spent years as a personal trainer, cofounded CrossFit, Inc. with his then-wife Lauren Jenai in 2000.
As a teenager who did competitive gymnastics, Glassman discovered how much stronger he could get using dumbbells and a barbell rather than relying solely on bodyweight exercises, as most gymnasts did, per The Box Magazine, a CrossFit magazine devoted to community members. Glassman worked as a personal trainer for several years and then opened a gym in Santa Cruz, California, in 1995. At the gym, he started holding group workout classes rather than just focusing on individual clients, per The Box. In 2000, CrossFit was officially established. The 63-year-old CEO no longer practices CrossFit himself, Inc. magazine reported in 2013, CrossFit has built up a cult following over the years.
As Edward Cooper reported for Men's Health magazine, the foremost appeal of CrossFit is that the workouts get physical results. The intense, small classes also quickly build a sense of camaraderie among participants. "Everyone knows your name and knows that you smashed your back squat personal best the other day," Tom Parker, head coach at a CrossFit affiliate in Reading, England, told Men's Health in 2017. CrossFit is particularly popular among police officers, firefighters, and members of the military, per The New York Times. Navy Seals and Special Forces groups are known to do CrossFit workouts, and the Times reported in 2005 that a Marine Corps captain was teaching CrossFit to his division in California. The fitness brand makes most of its money from the annual fees it charges its affiliate gyms.
Five years after it started, there were 13 affiliate CrossFit gyms, per The Box Magazine. Today, there are more than 15,000, according to the company. Most of CrossFit's revenue comes from these affiliate gyms, each of which pays the company an annual fee of $3,000, per Forbes. The company also offers $1,000 seminars for its affiliates that explain the CrossFit philosophy, the fundamental movements, and how to teach CrossFit. Since 2007, CrossFit has been hosting an elite athletic competition called the CrossFit Games, which has the goal of finding the fittest man and woman on earth.
The Games are a multi-day competition where athletes from more than 120 countries compete for more than $2.3 million in prize money, according to the official website. At the Games, the competitors compete in a series of challenges that are unknown until right before the start of the event. "The combination of highly trained athletes and unknown events makes for an explosive mix," reads the official website. Reebok has sponsored the CrossFit Games since 2011 but ended that sponsorship this week after Glassman's controversial tweet about George Floyd. Glassman owns 100% of CrossFit after his 2012 divorce from cofounder Lauren Jenai, during which Glassman bought out her shares of the company. Instagram Embed: //instagram.com/p/B5lTNhdpCHX/embed Width: 540px With the help of a more than $16 million loan from Boston-based private equity firm Summit Partners, Glassman bought out his ex-wife's half of CrossFit, which gave him 100% ownership of the company, per SB Nation. Jenai has since started another fitness company called Manifest, which has an app that tracks workouts, food intake, and lab test results. Later this month, she's set to marry a former high school friend who's currently on house arrest awaiting trial for a murder charge, per Page Six. Jenai did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment. Despite its loyal following, CrossFit has been controversial over the years. Critics call it dangerous because of its emphasis on speed and weight lifted rather than on technique.
CrossFit has been linked to a rare and potentially fatal kidney condition called rhabdomyolysis, which is typically caused by crush injuries found in victims of car accidents or collapsed buildings but can also be a result of extreme muscle strain in untrained athletes. In 2013, Eric Robertson, an assistant professor of physical therapy at Regis University, wrote in HuffPost that rhabdomyolysis is "so commonly encountered in CrossFit that they have a cartoon about it." Robertson warned against the CrossFit mindset of practitioners pushing themselves to the extreme. But some CrossFit aficionados consider a visit from "Uncle Rhabdo," as they call it, to be a badge of honor, per The Conversation. A common refrain among CrossFit fans is "I met Pukey," which means they worked out so hard they vomited, per The New York Times. "[CrossFit] can kill you," Glassman told The New York Times in a 2005 interview. "I've always been completely honest about that." Now, CrossFit is facing backlash over Glassman's comments on George Floyd, a black man whose death in police custody last month kicked off worldwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality. Tweet Embed: //twitter.com/mims/statuses/1269404726581288960?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw It's FLOYD-19. On June 6, in response to a tweet from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation classifying racism and discrimination as a public health issue, Glassman tweeted, "It's FLOYD-19." The day after he posted the tweet, Glassman apologized for his comment via the CrossFit Twitter account and said it was "not racist but a mistake." "I, CrossFit HQ, and the CrossFit community will not stand for racism," Glassman wrote. "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." The day Glassman posted his apology, a CrossFit affiliate gym owner accused the CEO of downplaying racism and of saying in a Zoom call, "I do not mourn George Floyd."
Sports scientist and CrossFit affiliate owner Mike Young wrote on Medium that hours before Glassman tweeted about Floyd, the CEO was on a Zoom call with CrossFit staff and affiliate gym owners. During the call, Young wrote, a Minneapolis CrossFit gym owner asked Glassman about CrossFit's stance on the current racial unrest. Young alleges that Glassman responded: "I do not mourn George Floyd." Glassman also "seemed to downplay racism," on the Zoom call, according to Young. Separately, a CrossFit gym owner in Seattle published an email purported to be from Glassman in which he called her "a sh--ty person" for asking why CrossFit was staying silent on the protests following Floyd's death.
The gym owner, Alyssa Royse, wrote a letter to CrossFit and Glassman on June 3 asking CrossFit to publicly take a stand against systemic racism. "A brand should tell someone what to expect. CrossFit, as a business, has taken a stand opposite that," Royse wrote in the letter. In what Royse says was Glassman's response, and which Royse published in a blog post, the CEO called her "a sh--ty person" and said he was ashamed of her. Before Glassman's apology for the Floyd tweet, CrossFit social media accounts had not mentioned Floyd's death, the recent protests, or the Black Lives Matter movement — and Royse wasn't the only one who took notice. Recent comments on the company's Instagram account include, "Your silence is deafening" and "Black Lives Matter." One person wrote: "For a 'community' that encourages people to cheer for everyone, you're doing an exceptionally sh--ty job of showing your support for those that need it most. Silence speaks volumes, and everyone can hear it." As Business Insider's Shoshy Ciment reported, other fitness brands have spoken out during the protests. Nike released an ad about ending racism and bigotry and pledged to donate $40 million to support the Black community. CrossFit did not respond to Business Insider's multiple requests for comment. After Glassman's tweet about Floyd, Reebok and many affiliate gyms said they would end their relationships with the fitness brand.
In a statement to Business Insider's Shoshy Ciment, Reebok confirmed it would end its exclusive 10-year partnership as CrossFit's main sponsor. "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," Reebok said in a statement. "We will fulfill our remaining contractual obligations in 2020. We owe this to the CrossFit Games competitors, fans, and the community." CrossFit athletes have denounced Glassman's comment and pledged to boycott the 2020 CrossFit Games, which are scheduled for October 10 through November 11 in Madison, Wisconsin. Instagram Embed: //instagram.com/p/CBK4vqtBomg/embed Width: 540px CrossFit athletes Chandler Smith, Noah Olsen and Kristi Eramo O'Connell all announced on Instagram on Sunday that they wouldn't attend the 2020 Games unless changes were made at CrossFit, competitive fitness magazine Box Rox reported. On Monday, athletes Brooke Haas and Travis Mayer followed suit, saying on Instagram that they would also boycott the Games. Some of the athletes said that their participation in the games would hinge specifically on changes to CrossFit's leadership. Rich Froning, a CrossFit athlete who has taken home the title of "Fittest Man on Earth" at four different CrossFit Games, denounced Glassman's comments on Sunday but didn't say whether or not he was boycotting the Games. In an Instagram post shared with his 1.4 million followers, Froning said that the events of the last few days have "made it impossible to stay loyal to leadership who make callous statements that alienate and divide in a time when unity is needed." Glassman's tweet about Floyd is not the first contentious social media post that he and CrossFit have made over the years.
In fact, CrossFit's Wikipedia page has an entire section devoted to the company's social media controversies. In 2015, Glassman feuded with pop singer Nick Jonas after CrossFit posted a tweet signed by Glassman with an image of a Coca-Cola bottle and the words "Open Diabetes." Jonas, who has said he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 13, called out the company on Twitter, writing: "This is not cool. Please know and understand the difference between type one and type [two] diabetes before making ignorant comments. Sensitivity to all diseases, and proper education on the cause and day to day battle is important." In an emailed statement to ABC News at the time, Glassman said, in part: "This is about the scourge of Type 2 diabetes and its underlying causes. [Jonas'] sponsor, Coca-Cola, is a significant contributor to the diabetes epidemic both with product and 'marketing' spend." In 2018, a CrossFit executive was fired after tweeting that he believed celebrating LGBTQ Pride was "a sin."
In 2018, a CrossFit executive was fired after tweeting support for the owner of an Indianapolis CrossFit affiliate gym who canceled an LGBTQ Pride workout at his gym, per CNBC. "As a business we will choose to deploy our resources towards those efforts and causes that line up with our own values and beliefs," the gym manager wrote in an email announcing the cancellation of the event. After the leaked email created an uproar on social media, CrossFit's "chief knowledge officer" then tweeted his support of the gym's decision, saying that he "personally believes celebrating 'pride' is a sin." CrossFit fired the executive that day and Glassman called his views "appalling." In 2014, a transgender woman sued CrossFit for discrimination for not allowing her to compete as a female in the CrossFit Games, despite the fact that she was legally recognized as a woman in California.
CrossFit reversed its policy in 2018 and now allows transgender athletes to register for its annual CrossFit Games based on their gender identity rather than the sex they were assigned at birth. In a 2019 interview with the South China Morning Post, Glassman said CrossFit was not trying to make any sort of social or political statement with the new policy. "We've got no interest in excluding anyone and this is not my f-----g issue," he said. "My issue is blood sugar control and chronic disease, that's what I care about. I don't care if you are L, G, B, T or Q, I honest to God don't care. And so what I want to do is just do that thing that everyone else does. I don't want to be groundbreaking, or discriminatory." Source: CNN In the past couple of years, Glassman has delved into the medical sphere with a venture called "CrossFit Health," which aims to tackle chronic disease related to poor diet and inactivity.
Glassman has launched the CrossFit Physicians Network to identify doctors who practice CrossFit so that practitioners can consult with a doctor who "gets it," per the official website. "A CrossFit physician knows something other doctors don't know, and they are acutely in-tune with the fact there is something desperately wrong in the mainstream medical message," Glassman said, per Box Pro. In 2018, Glassman hosted more than 340 doctors for networking events, lectures, and free CrossFit training courses, Vox reported. The CEO told Vox that his ultimate goal was for doctors to consider prescribing CrossFit to patients and possibly to even open up their own affiliate gyms. Glassman is a self-proclaimed libertarian and an outspoken critic of the American soda industry.
In 2016, he threw his support behind Democratic city councilwoman Nanette Barragan, who was running to represent California's 44th district, which includes parts of South Los Angeles. As Insider previously reported, Glassman supported Barragan because of who she was running against: Isadore Hall, who had ties to the American Beverage Association, which represents soda. Glassman has been an outspoken critic of the soda industry and its effects on the nation's health. Barragan won the 2016 election and was reelected in 2018. Glassman is selling his 11-acre oceanfront estate in Hawaii for $9.5 million.
The CEO's Hawaii properties include a three-bedroom plantation-style home and an adjacent lot on the island of Kauai that together cost $9.5 million, per Mansion Global. The two properties are listed separately — the home for $7 million and the lot for $2.5 million. Glassman, who reportedly lives in California, told Mansion Global in January that he had once considered making the Hawaii property his main home. "It's just an amazing property," Glassman told the publication. The home includes a fully-stocked home gym, as well as tennis and basketball courts. It previously belonged to "Avatar" actor Sam Worthington. Lauren Frias contributed to this report.
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