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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Royse

Is It Trolling Or Is It Irony: Hard to tell with CrossFit


Let's enjoy a brief history of me and inclusivity in CrossFit. We'll start 3 weeks ago, with an episode of comical fuckery in which CrossFit sent me a Cease and Desist letter for the one spot that we apparently didn't remove their name from our media presence, which is actually more nefarious than it sounds. We'll also go back 6 years or so, to when I first started fighting these fights with them.... and eventually arrive back at this moment. This fucking moment right here, in which they have the audacity to use a photo of me to promote their inclusivity efforts. Cease and desist, motherfuckers.

Three weeks ago or so I got a Cease and Desist letter from CrossFit because someone had alerted them that the word CrossFit still appeared if you clicked the "show more" button in the "about" on our Facebook profile. Which nobody ever does. Including us. Last June, when I wrote "that letter" telling CrossFit we were thinking of disaffiliating because of their moral ambiguity, Greg responded with, well, y'all know. What you may not know is that his sister Kathy sent us an email saying that we had 24 hours to change all our URLs, SM, names etc... or they would sue us, and cancelled our affiliation. We had 5 months left, legally speaking, but really, fuck them. We did it. If you've ever done that, you know that getting all that done (especially Facebook) in 24 hours is no small task. But we didn't want anything to do with the brand, so.... DONE! But we missed that one little spot. No one knew or cared about it in all this time. Then we got a C & D because someone complained. Someone complained. Let's unpack that. Since June, I have become one of the most hated figures in the cult of Glassman. I won't say in CrossFit, because I still believe that there are really good people in the CrossFit community, probably a silent majority that the brand needs to care a lot more about. But to the hardcore Greg fans, the ones who one might euphemistically call "towel-snappers," I am public enemy #1. They revel in calling me names, mocking me, threatening me. Good times.

Here's an example from an online group of affiliate owners. (And yes, I took a screen shot, because having been doxxed and threatened before, I screenshot anything that I think I might need as evidence should harm come to me. I do not screenshot general assholery, only that pertaining to me.) (So yes, if you're wondering, Mr. Wannabee Guru, I have screen shots of the threatening messages you sent me in DM, yes, I do.)

Someone in a group of which I am one of the moderators had declined to post something for a guru / marketing type guy in our group. So they went to another group to talk about how awful I am. (It wasn't me, it never is, but I get the blame.) And this popped up. This guy said, in that group, that he had combed my profile to find a photo of me in a bikini that so that he could make social media memes.

This is step one of doxxing, and is most commonly done by men to threaten women and keep them from getting all uppity and demanding things like, respect, safety, and a fucking place at the table.

Things got real quiet when I responded, and included the photo he was talking about. But none of that changes the fact that THIS is so prevalent in the underlying culture in the CrossFit community.

So when I see that someone had "alerted" CrossFit HQ that the word CrossFit still appeared in some forgotten corner of a social media page, I know that someone out there is still looking for a way to stick it to me. That's more than a little disconcerting, for very real and legit reasons.

As I've said a million times, I do not think these people define the community, but the failure of CrossFit to speak out about this kind of shit does.

Now, I'm not new to this. 5 or 6 years ago, when CrossFit outed a trans athlete and banned her from competing in The Open (not even The Games, just The Open) I spoke out. Maybe it was the first time someone had publicly taken them to task for their ignorance and bigotry, I don't know. But I do know that they came at me fast and furious, with absurd legal arguments, threats and some comically bad misunderstandings of human biology.

But it was a quietly simmering thing for years. I was everything from a "humorless cunt" to a "fucking SJW" to a "feminazi" and whatever else in online CrossFit forums. Whatever, it only matters as context.

Fast forward a few years later, when I met the now-former CEO (Jeff, who I freely admit I still adore.) He took inclusivity issues seriously, both as a human being and as a businessman who understood the financial power of an inclusive brand over the diminishing returns of a toxic one.

We started talking a lot about what the brand can and should do to become more inclusive. Then one morning I came home from my workout and Russell Berger had made a totally homophobic Tweet. Y'all remember that, right? I called Jeff, who was in meetings, and we talked all day. By the end of the day, Russell was fired, and CrossFit had released a bold statement on Twitter.

I wrote that Tweet. (Best thing I ever wrote.)

And then, in order for it not to just be queer-washing bullshit, I connected CrossFit and the Out Foundation, for obvious reasons.

But herein lies the rub. What Jeff and I both knew was that they couldn't make this statement, and continue to ban trans athletes. So in a little bit of behind-the-scenes strategery that many people don't know, I was able to convince them to lift their ban on trans athletes. (Best phone call I ever made in my life was to Will, at The Out Foundation, to tell them it was happening. Hardest secret either of us ever kept was not telling our beloved Chloie, who had kicked this all off.) And while many people at The Games hemmed and hawed, saying it's too hard, I wrote the regulations my fucking self, by pulling from existing regulations and consulting with experts.

I said then, and I still mean it, if that is all I ever accomplished in my life, I'd be proud. I have never asked to be paid, this work just matters.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because, since that time, in one form or another, I've been working my ass off to help CrossFit become the inclusive and transformative brand that they can be. And although I've never asked to be paid (though I should have and I live with that regret,) I have been shut out and shit on by CrossFit more profoundly and publicly than anyone except Jeff and Mikki Martin, the original creators of CrossFit Kids, (If you don't know that story, you should. That should have told me everything I need to know about this company. But, like so many others, I believed I could focus on the positive. When you do that, and ignore the negative, you are complicit in empowering the negative.)

When, after all we had done together, Kathy told us we had 24 hours to remove all traces of CrossFit from our business, that should have been all I needed.

But I still believed. I believed the new ownership would be better.

It isn't. It isn't as overtly toxic as the old, but it's still mostly the same. The same people are still pulling the strings. But more importantly, the same culture is still brewing at the affiliate level. If you need evidence of that, look at all the responses on the CrossFit Games post that they had the offensive audacity to use my photo in. THAT is the CrossFit community. Look at the people who scour my social media to find photos they can use to doxx me, and the people who laugh about it. Look at the people who are still, all these months later looking for anything they can use to hurt me and report me to CrossFit for. Still.

And look at the silence from CrossFit on any issue that actually matters. Sure, they're thoughtlessly checking off boxes so that they can have diverse photos in an annual report or something. But until they are able to actually take a stand against toxic behavior in their name, in their ranks, in their affiliates, it's all talk. Until the polite silent majority starts getting loud, or leadership overtly speaks out against it, that's the community. That's the brand. Those are the voices that keep others out of CrossFit gyms. This is branding 101, and human decency 101. It is unbelievably simple. And they can't do it. Fuck your Fran time, can you stand strong in the face of a bully?

So in case I missed it anywhere else: I AM NOT AFFILIATED WITH CROSSFIT IN ANY WAY.

I still hold on to what I believe they can and should be. But....

To use my photo to advertise your business, and queer-wash your reputation without ever saying "thank you" and "we're sorry," not to mention without making real changes is just disgusting. Are you going to use a picture of Jeff and Mikki to advertise the CrossFit Kids program? Are you going to use a picture of Chloie to advertise The Games?

How fucking dare you.

Best case scenario, you have a social media intern who did this, and you just STILL have absolutely no control over your own messaging, and are utterly clueless as to the impact of your actions on others. (Kind of like, after all we've been through, you couldn't just send me a text saying "you missed a spot" when someone found the word CrossFit in the "about" tab of our Facebook page. You had a lawyer send me an official note? Are you serious?)

And if that's your best case scenario, then everything I have ever said about you not knowing how to protect your brand is even more spot-on than I thought. Realistically though, you have blown well past the place where even I can give you the benefit of the doubt. You have used people, including me, then shunned, shit on and shut them out when they're no longer useful.

You owe me, and so many others, an apology.



Just for funsies, look, both of my Insta accounts are still blocked from The CrossFit Games, where they are using my image to promote their inclusivity. Irony is dedddd.


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