Icelandic CrossFitters Criticize CEO’s Reponse to Protests

Following CrossFit’s controversial response to protests surrounding the death of George Floyd, Icelandic CrossFitters have taken to social media to criticize company leadership. The Icelandic gym CrossFit Reykjavík has also threatened to drop their affiliation with CrossFit unless “drastic changes are made.”

From 13 to 13,000

CrossFit is a branded fitness regimen and competitive sport founded by Greg Glassman and Lauren Jenai in 2000. Since its founding, CrossFit has enjoyed increasing popularity around the world. In 2005, the company was affiliated with 13 gyms. Today, it is estimated that CrossFit is practised by members of over 13,000 gyms worldwide. There are several CrossFit affiliated gyms in Iceland.

“Floyd-19”

Following protests centring around the death of American citizen George Floyd at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin, CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman came under fire for a series of controversial tweets.

On June 6, after the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (a public health body) stated that racism was a public health issue on Twitter, Glassman responded by tweeting: “FLOYD-19.”

Three days earlier, Alyssa Royse – the owner of Rocket CrossFit, a nine-year affiliate gym – announced her intention of changing Rocket CrossFit’s name to Rocket Community Fitness and disaffiliating from CrossFit when it was time to renew. Among the reasons for her decision, was CrossFit’s failure to take a stand.

“The George Floyd murder threw our country into massive unrest. CrossFit is the only major brand I can think of that has failed to take a stand, make a statement, show support for social justice in general and Black lives in specific,” Royse wrote.

Glassman’s reply, later shared by Royse, stated that he sincerely believed that the quarantine had “adversely impacted” her mental health. The email went on to call Royse “delusional” and a “shitty person.”

On June 7, Reebok announced that it would not be extending its contract as the sponsor for the CrossFit Games.

That same day, sports scientist and performance director Mike Young published an article on Medium alleging that Glassman had repeatedly stated, “I do not mourn George Floyd,” to a Minneapolis CrossFit gym owner on a group video conference call.

Glassman later issued an apology on Twitter:

“I, CrossFit HQ, and the CrossFit community will not stand for racism. 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. Floyd is a hero in the black community and not just a victim. I should have been sensitive to that and wasn’t. I apologize for that.”

Icelandic CrossFit athletes respond

In response to the scandal, Iceland CrossFit athletes have taken to social media and a few CrossFit gyms in Iceland, including CrossFit Reykjavík, are considering dropping their affiliation.

Writing on Instagram yesterday, Annie Mist Þórisdóttir – winner of the CrossFit Games in 2011 and 2012 – criticized the company’s response to the protests: “I have ALWAYS been true to myself on social media – and I will continue to be. CrossFit is the community NOT just the brand. CrossFit much more than just ONE individual. CrossFit is ALL of US. CrossFit is universally scaleable, CrossFit has room for everyone regardless of colour, gender, or sexual orientation.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBJoxorHHkY/

In a similar message on Instagram on the same day, Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir – who followed in her compatriot’s footsteps by placing first in the CrossFit Games in 2015 and 2016 – said that she was “ashamed, disappointed, and angry.” Referencing Glassman’s “Floyd-19” comment and his reply to Alyssa Royse, Katrín Tanja stated: “This is something that I DO NOT STAND FOR. This is not leadership. This is not good human nature.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBJGwcVJjUJ/

Ragnheiður Sara Sigmundsdóttir – who placed third in the CrossFit Games in 2015 and 2016 – also took to Instagram last night, stating that equality has always been central to her morality: “Fortunately, our community is MUCH stronger than the words of one man. His words do not represent us, and you can be sure that I will stand up for what is right with our community.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBLRVAFppJu/

Over 3,000 Attend Black Lives Matter Meeting in Iceland

Black lives matter protest Reykjavík

Austurvöllur square, in front of Iceland’s Parliament building, filled with over 3,000 people yesterday afternoon for a solidarity meeting organised by African Americans living in Iceland. The meeting began with an emotional moment of silence lasting eight minutes and 46 seconds – the length of time police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck, leading to Floyd’s death in Minnesota on May 25.

“It was great for thinking about these issues, not just about George Floyd, but everyone that came before,” Derek T. Allan, one of the organisers of the protest, told Vísir. “The atmosphere was something else, it’s difficult to describe. It warms the heart to see so many and that they were here to listen to us.”

Police in Attendance

One Black Icelander that spoke to reporters pointed out that Iceland is not free of racism, saying she had experienced it from an early age. “It’s pain that no one can understand unless they’ve experienced it. It’s a very sad and tiring thing,” she stated.

Halla Bergþóra Björnsdóttir, newly appointed Police Commissioner of the Reykjavík Capital Area, was also present at the event. “We were here to show solidarity with the issue,” she stated. “I think it’s very important that we all be equal before the law, and it was very important to come here and hear what they had to say.”

Westfjords residents also show solidarity

A solidarity meeting was also held in Ísafjörður, the largest town in the Westfjords, RÚV reports. Around 100 people gathered in the town centre, where, like in Reykjavík, the meeting began with a moment of silence.

Black Lives Matter Gathering Held in Reykjavík Tomorrow

Asylum seeker protest Reykjavík

A gathering will be held in Reykjavík’s Austurvöllur square at 4.30pm tomorrow in solidarity with African Americans in the United States. The gathering will feature speakers and a moment of silence for George Floyd, killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25 while in police custody. Floyd’s death sparked a wave of protests across the United States calling for an end to institutionalised police violence against Black people.

“In solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters in the United States of America, we will be gathering at Austurvöllur to stand in defiance against the system of White supremacy that continues to murder Black people,” the Facebook event for the Reykjavík protest reads. Though there is an American Embassy in Reykjavík, protest organisers have purposely chosen to protest in front of Iceland’s Parliament building. “The significance of holding it at Austurvöllur is that Iceland cannot remain silent,” Asantewa Feaster, one of the protest organisers, stated. “Citizens across the US and the world have shown us where they stand, Iceland must do the same.”

At the time of writing, 1,400 were marked as “attending” the event on Facebook and 1,400 as “interested.” Attendees are encouraged to wear face masks “as a form of protest” and to practice social distancing where possible. Due to COVID-19, a ban on gatherings over 200 people is currently in effect in Iceland. If the number of attendees goes over 200, event organisers encourage those present to “cross the street to lower the number of people in the area. You will be showing support while keeping the safety of yourself and others in mind.”