'It's racism': Bay Area gyms cut ties with CrossFit after inflammatory comments about George Floyd

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Business owners across the Bay Area, once affiliated with the CrossFit community, are quickly cutting ties with the brand.

Over the weekend, then-CEO Greg Glassman posted several controversial tweets, referencing George Floyd's death and the coronavirus pandemic.

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"It's a variety of things that led us to this point," NCFIT founder, Jason Khalipa said about his choice to disaffiliate. "I think that the current statements were kind of like the straw that broke the camel's back. It just was a long time coming, there was a lot of different statements that have been made over the years."

NCFIT previously operated as NorCal CrossFit, then re-branded as NCFIT about five years ago.

"What's challenging as a business owner, when you're associated with another brand, is that you're guilty by association," Khalipa told ABC7 News. "And I think a lot of these owners have worked so hard to build their business, and to watch a piece of their brand get tarnished because of statements that are completely outside of their control, I think was the end of that for them."

"It boiled down to lack of diversity, how they handled COVID-19, and then on top of this, the racial injustice," Kindred Fitness co-owners Leonie Solia and Vanna Truong shared.

"The racial relations and the racism that we've been seeing."

Kindred Fitness most recently operated under the name CrossFit Kindred.

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Criticizing a Tweet that called racism a public health issue, Glassman responded Saturday, tweeting, "It's Floyd-19."

Then Tuesday, audio was leaked from a private Zoom call between Glassman and affiliated gym owners.

Truong said, "He basically said, 'I do not mourn George Floyd.'"

"Is that insensitive? No. We just want to flat out call it out, it's racism," Solia said bluntly.

Hours after the audio was leaked, CrossFit published this announcement from Glassman:

"I'm stepping down as CEO of CrossFit, Inc., and I have decided to retire. On Saturday I created a rift in the CrossFit community and unintentionally hurt many of its members. Since I founded CrossFit 20 years ago, it has become the world's largest network of gyms. All are aligned in offering an elegant solution to the vexing problem of chronic disease. Creating CrossFit and supporting its affiliates and legions of professional trainers has been a labor of love.

Those who know me know that my sole issue is the chronic disease epidemic. I know that CrossFit is the solution to this epidemic and that CrossFit HQ and its staff serve as the stewards of CrossFit affiliates worldwide. I cannot let my behavior stand in the way of HQ's or affiliates' missions. They are too important to jeopardize."

"Retirement on paper sounds great, but Greg also owns 100-percent of CrossFit," Khalipa pointed out. "So, as far as the future is concerned, who knows? Because I think a lot of the community is going to ask for him to sell, and not just step down."

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NCFIT, Kindred Fitness in East San Jose and Endgame Athletics in Oakland join a number of gyms, sponsors and athletes officially ending connections with the company.

"The CrossFit brand didn't build our gyms, we built our gyms," Endgame Athletics owner and head coach, Arnold Chua told ABC7 News, "The coach, the coaches, the community that you build, that's all on you."

Endgame Athletics previously operated under the name CrossFit EGA.

Chua continued, "For me it was instant. Once that tweet came out we said, we're done. Enough is enough, we're disaffiliating right away."

He explained, over the years, Endgame Athletics hasn't agreed with everything CrossFit has said on social media, or done. He said recent events made the move to cut ties, a simple choice.

"I told my gym members, if you don't believe in that," Chua said about the Black Lives Matter movement. "You don't need to come back to the gym when we reopen."

Now the focus is fostering a fitness community that continues to support and stand with people of color.

Owners said they paid CrossFit up to $3,000 per year.

"We can take that money that we would usually pay as our affiliation fee and we can put it back into the community to do something good," Chua said.

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