CrossFit, a fitness regimen and global brand with millions of followers, saw its share of controversy this week, which culminated in the resignation and retirement of its CEO yesterday.
Gym owners first expressed disappointment with the brand more than one week ago, after the company failed to issue a statement about the Black Lives Matter protests and support for Black athletes. In addition, CEO Greg Glassman came under fire after posting ill-worded tweets on June 6 to the Institute to Health Metrics and Evaluation, which many found offensive.
— Greg Glassman (@CrossFitCEO) June 6, 2020
The comments fueled unrest among CrossFit gyms and followers, resulting in Glassman stepping down June 9. His statement: “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…I cannot let my behavior stand in the way of HQ's or affiliates' missions. They are too important to jeopardize.”
CrossFit posted a lengthy statement in response on its website, answering questions about its initial silence. CrossFit's statement employs a conversational tone, addressing some important points for its community. The headline alone provides a direct jumping off point: “Why Didn't Crossfit Just Say Something?”
The statement takes several tacks, including admitting that the brand made a mistake, as well as acknowledging its current statement was not perfect, and a work in progress.
“We cannot change what has happened, but we ask for forgiveness while we thoroughly examine ourselves.”
The statement does not excuse the words of CrossFit's CEO, but explains why he may have taken the path he did on Twitter. It also admits it was too slow to respond, spending too much time in analysis paralysis.
"We struggled the past few weeks because we allowed our desire to get it right to paralyze us. Tackling social justice issues of this magnitude is not our strength as a company, because our varied points of view sometimes devolve into dysfunction...We struggled to speak to the Black community because we overly complicated the need to care and respond."
Can CrossFit Recover?
The CrossFit debacle is not a crisis communications practitioners should envy, however, the transparency it provided around its poor choices and timing indicate the company is trying to regain the trust and respect of its community. Ousting a CEO behind a divisive argument will give the company space to repair the damage and work on making things right.
CrossFit likely will take a hit in regards to partnerships and followers due to its failure to respond to its audience in a timely manner, but being straight with the public is a good start in the right direction to recovery.
Nicole Schuman is a reporter for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal