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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Royse

What Were You Expecting?

I keep seeing people ask some form of “what was she expecting” in terms of my decision to show the world the letter that Greg Glassman sent me. They are ambiguous words with any number of contexts that could be read into them.

That it's the questioning of "what did you do to cause it" or "why are you surprised that it happened" that is so often thrown around in abuse situations. As if what happened doesn't matter, since you probably deserved it.

"What did you think would happen if you told people?" That thing that is so often said when people report abusers, and then lose jobs and friends and….

Fear of being unpopular, or shamed, or retaliated against, or shunned, or..... That is why people don't come forward. That's how abusive people keep power over people. That is literally the underpinning of the systemic issues that people are protesting around the streets.

Be nice, don't make waves. Don’t upset the people with power over you.

Ironically, that’s the root of so many of our problems right now.

There is NOTHING, absolutely nothing that would have made Greg’s email to me acceptable. And while it was just one email to me, it was a perfect illustration of a much larger issue in society.

I was not going to be someone who stayed silent for fear of people being mad at me. That’s not who I am and it never has been.

So, what was I expecting to happen?

I didn't know what would happen. I had no expectations. But I know that when people stay silent about vile behavior, that behavior grows, becomes normalized and accepted as "the way it is." And I’m not here for that.

I have never heard any allegations of sexual impropriety against Greg*, but the closest analogy I can come up with is when people started coming forward against Harvey Weinstein. One person came forward and then everyone else was like "ya, we knew about it, we just didn't say anything."

And as a result, look what happened. Because people were (legitimately) afraid to come forward, it continued for years. When someone came forward, it all imploded in a matter of days.

A couple days ago, a couple days into this, I was talking to a dear friend whose been part of the CrossFit core, and they said "that fucking asshole fucked us all." But then went on to say that it's not like people didn't know he was like this.

The truth is, I knew he was like this, but it had never been my story to tell. I had heard tell of him going off like this on other affiliate owners, and staff members, who have asked earnest questions of him. We all have.

When I was talking with Brian about how they killed social media, Brian told me about an affiliate who had sent Greg an email questioning the decision, and Greg had responded in pretty much the same way he responded to me. Brian read me the whole email. I asked something like "and you think that's okay?" And was told something like "that's just Greg." But it wasn't my story to tell. So I didn't.

When I wrote my long letter explaining our disaffiliation, my genuine, deep hope was that they would take it to heart. It was clear that there was a massive wave getting ready to hit about Black lives, and I tried to warn them. The rumors about the Zoom calls filled with conspiracy theories and racism were swirling. I knew there was a shitstorm coming and I was trying to warn them.

Why? Because I had worked with them before on previous shitstorms. The ban on trans athletes? When Russell Berger said supporting gay pride was a sin? I worked with them to not only use social media to clarify their stance and take a stand, but also to create systemic change around their support of LGBTQI inclusivity.

I had every reason to believe that my letter to them, the original one, would at least be taken to heart. Not that anything would change, but that it might be heard and someone could do something to help.

And the truth is, it mattered to me personally. Brady and I could not align ourselves with a brand that can't align themselves on the right side of history. We didn’t want to leave CrossFit, but we knew we couldn’t stay. We also knew we weren’t alone.

I did not expect the response that I got from Greg. That response was inexcusable. it was disgusting and vile and utterly, as Yahoo called it, "unhinged."

But more than that, it was an email sent by a man who sent it because he knew he could. He knew that no one would really stand up to him, in a world where no one stands up to abusive men when they have the power. When those men in power have the access to the goodies that other people want. We value power and access in this society more than we value human beings.

How many emails like that has he sent? I genuinely want to know. How many times has he yelled at people like that?

The truth is, people knew Greg was like this. They've known for years. But no one said anything. Because they needed everything to stay in one piece. I had heard rumors of it, pretty direct rumors, but it was never my story to tell. So I didn't. I questioned why people put up with it, but it wasn't my story to tell.

Then he did it to me. Then it was my story to tell. And I told it.

What did I expect would happen? I had no expectations. I didn't know. I didn't care. All I knew is that I was not going to be someone who turned a blind eye so that it could continue happening.

It is mind-boggling to me, on a deep level, that some people are more concerned with the fact that he got caught than with the fact the he did it.

But think about this: there are people whose livelihoods have depended on him who have bailed. People who have known him for years who bailed. Once ONE person spoke out and daylighted it, it all fell like dominoes.

I cried when Katrin spoke out. Think about that. She had the courage to cite that letter and say, basically "NO, this is not how we treat people."

There is no universe in which it all falls that quickly if it was an isolated incident. Or if people didn't know.

My question is why did no one speak up before me? Why did it have to be me? I have no power here, and this is a very scary place to be. Why did this go on for so long?

How many places in our lives are we letting things like this go on without speaking up, holding people to account, demanding better. Supporting our own power rather than creating systems where people feel safe to speak up? Why are we leaving it to others to fix?

And why is it so often the people with the least power who are expected to take the blows to make the change? Don’t confuse those questions for anger or regret – it’s really neither of those. It’s a call to reflect and answer.

I didn't know what would happen. I had no expectations. But I've not stood for the mistreatment of anyone before. I wasn't going to stand for the mistreatment of myself.

The irony is that my initial letter was written from a place of love and loyalty and genuinely wanting to help them deal with BLM exactly as I had helped them deal with their LGBTQI issues. I was trying to save them from themselves.

When this all happened, I felt bad. Sad. Deeply sad. Now I'm kind of embarrassed that I had tried to save them from themselves. My intentions might have been good, but then I too would have been upholding the system.

The truth is that I don't think people who treat other people so horrifically should be rewarded.

There are BRILLIANT and kind and wonderful people working at HQ, especially in training. As I said in my original letter, I think that's the best part of CrossFit. I suspect, hope, that the training department stays strong, because it's really good. As I also said, even as a disaffiliated gym, I would (or would have, not now) sent my coaches to any CrossFit training, and accepted that as a training cert.

(Now that I've seen more of who Greg is, I will not give him a penny. You can’t say “I don’t support this guy” and then give him your money. That’s just not how it works. That is supporting him in the most literal possible way.)

I am a little sad about the affiliate thing, but not like you'd expect. I'm sad that people think the name CrossFit is important to YOUR gyms. Your communities are strong because you made them. Your coaches, your members, your special sauce that makes you YOU is yours, regardless of whether or not you're called CrossFit. Your members and social media is your marketing. It always has been. The power has always been yours.

Greg did this to himself. His words, that he wrote as a grown man with full agency, are what kicked off this firestorm. All I did was share them. Then he came in with that dismissive, racist Tweet tinted with conspiracy theory about a global pandemic. Then other affiliate owners started speaking out about the Zoom calls, and past interactions.

It’s a Scooby Doo moment. "I would have gotten away with it, if it weren't for that meddling bitch." They always get away with it, until someone stand up to them.

I don't regret standing up. I regret that so many people's livelihoods were built on such an unstable foundation. I regret that real people are having real pain and fear as a result of that unstable foundation crumbling. But I am not responsible for that.

I have been as stunned - probably more, thanks to the proximity - as anyone. I haven't slept since Friday, really. I have cried and puked. I have been shaken, literally to the point of not being able to stop shaking. There have been moments when I was literally scared for my life.

But I have also gotten THOUSANDS of emails, many which have reduced me to tears. People from every corner of the world thanking me. Telling me stories of feeling oppressed, left out, lost in a history and society that didn't value them. Affiliate owners who finally had the words to understand what they were feeling, what their own unease had been. Brands. Major companies are messaging me thanking me for taking a stand and showing them how to. IT IS SURREAL.

I'm tired. I'm terrified.

And I'm sick of people essentially saying "what was she wearing." There is nothing that anyone could have said to deserve that letter from Greg. Nothing.

If my putting myself on the line is what it takes to show the world you can't treat people like that, I'm fine with it. But don't for a single moment think I enjoyed it or wanted it. That is the polar opposite of the truth.

I've been miserable and shaken. I've lost friends too. I've seen the things people say about me. People are mad because an abusive man got called out. People with access to power don't like when that power and their access to it gets questioned. But it is not my job to protect Greg from the consequences of his own actions.

Change is hard.

But, if you own a gym, you have everything you need to thrive. Your gyms are awesome because of you.

I don't know what I expected. Not this.

But I knew I wasn't going to stand and let him treat me, or anyone else, that way. Not anymore.


Well, that was fast. There are now credible allegations of sexual, well, "Improprieties" at best. PLEASE watch this entire video from someone who was a member of HQ staff as well as Greg Glassman's personal pilot.


EDIT: This post originally compared "what were you expecting" to "what was she wearing?" Because that's how it felt to me, as someone who was asked that when I was raped. I thought I made clear that what I was looking at was the impulse to say "what did you to to cause it" rather than "why did they do that to you?" But those are murky waters and I was unable to communicate that question in a way that didn't feel harmful.


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