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10-Year Affiliate Owners: It Wasn’t the Tweet or the Email. It was “death by 1,000 cuts”

Jun 11, 2020 by

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We can forgive Greg Glassman, but we can’t forget: This was four-time CrossFit Games Champion Rich Froning’s message on an Affiliate Panel held via Zoom on Thursday.

The purpose: Froning was accompanied on the panel by eight other 10-plus year affiliate owners, who discussed their position in the CrossFit community today, as well as what it would take for them to remain connected to the CrossFit brand in the future. The two-hour panel, with a maximum capacity of virtual attendees, was at times emotional and raw. The men and women on the panel have devoted their lives to fitness and the business and community of CrossFit and it showed.

  • According to Beyond the Whiteboard, Dave Castro’s “team was not only listening but welcomed the feedback during their planning process.”

The panelists included:

  • Pat Sherwood: An affiliate owner for 14 years and a long-time CrossFit HQ employee. Although Sherwood recently announced he was disaffiliating his gym, he remains a CrossFit HQ employee.
  • Chris Spealler: A 13-year affiliate owner, former CrossFit Seminar Staff and eight-time CrossFit Games athlete.
  • Chriss Smith: Long-time affiliate owner and former CrossFit Regionals director and Seminar Staff.
  • Annie Sakamoto: Long-time affiliate owner and manager of Glassman’s original CrossFit gym in Santa Cruz, CA.
  • Jennifer Hunter-Marshall: Ten-year affiliate owner, current Seminar Staff, former Regionals competitor and CrossFit Games master’s athlete. (Editor’s note: A previous version of this story listed Hunter-Marshall as “former Seminar Staff,” that was inaccurate and has been corrected above.)
  • David Osorio: A 13-year affiliate owner, who’s gym has 1,000 active members.
  • Karianne Anthes: An 11-year affiliate owner and CrossFit HQ employee for nine years.
  • Jonathan Kinnick: An affiliate owner for almost 13 years and a member of the CrossFit Certification Board.

Bigger than the tweet and the inappropriate email: The events in recent days aren’t why the panelists denounced CrossFit now, they agreed. Those were simply the straws that broke the camel’s back, or “death by 1,000 cuts,” as it was put during the call.

  • Thirteen years of actions from HQ led Spealler to disaffiliate, he said.
  • For Froning, it was the lack of communication, lack of affiliate support, poor leadership, and HQ’s tendency to make decisions on a whim for years, which led him to cut ties with CrossFit now.
  • “It’s not just one action. It’s years of actions…Right now carrying the name CrossFit is somewhat of a liability and it has been for years, and that needs to not be the case,” Sakamoto added.

The panelists agreed there are two big “non-negotiables” for them to consider keeping their affiliation or to remain connected to CrossFit:

  • First, it’s not enough for Glassman to resign. He needs to be removed from the company, they agreed.
  • There needs to be a “complete separation” between Glassman and the company, said Hunter-Marshall.
  • “Greg Glassman (can) no longer own the company, or in any way financially benefit…from the affiliates,” said Sakamoto.
  • “I don’t know what it means that Glassman retired. Does that mean he still benefits financially? Does he still have influence? So (I would need to see) a removal of Glassman having any influence over affiliates,” added Spealler.
  • “I hate saying Greg shouldn’t be in control of the company because Greg has given me so much…but I have to say I can’t have him in control of the company,” Sherwood offered.

Froning’s solution: “I think the affiliates need to own (CrossFit).”

Second, the company needs a board of directors. Smith opened by suggesting a board of directors needs to be put in place, and each panelist concurrently agreed that a board of directors is non-negotiable.

  • “It can’t be one person calling all the shots,” Froning said, adding that there needs to be checks and balances in the system.
  • “It needs to not be a solely owned company at this point,” Sakamoto said.
  • It can’t be a “smoke and mirrors board,” Sherwood said. “(We need) an actual, real, true, unbiased, no hidden agenda, board of directors.”

Another key point: Sakamoto brought up the topic of CrossFit being inaccessible to many, and called for an action plan to diversify CrossFit.

  • “There’s an obvious barrier of entry to CrossFit, and most of that is financial,” she said.

Undeniable sadness among the panelists: Disaffilating from CrossFit was the “hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Froning said.

  • “There was no joy in the decision that I made…it ripped my heart out,” said Sherwood, who had tears in his eyes as he made his social media post.
  • “I’m gutted to have to do it…It’s soul-crushing,” Spealler said.

Hope for the methodology, and for the future of fitness: Despite the sadness, there was a certain amount of hope that CrossFit communities all around the world, both affiliated and disaffiliated, can still continue working together and doing what they do best: Helping people get fit and healthy.

  • “Whether it says CrossFit or not, I want the method and the movement to impact people’s lives,” Spealler said.
  • “I believe that it’s worth saving,” Sherwood said, adding that the good Glassman and the community brought into his life is interwoven in every aspect of who he is.
  • “We’re going to be OK. Gyms are going to be OK. Individually, it’ll be OK, but we’re so much better together,” Froning offered.
  • “We family,” Hunter-Marshall said. “We need to come together.”

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