CrossFit has fired Russell Berger, who had been chief knowledge officer for the company, after he tweeted support for an affiliate box owner who had cancelled a workout at his Indianapolis CrossFit location, CrossFit Infiltrate, that had been organized by his staff in support of Pride Month. In protest of the workout cancellation, many members and staff quit, causing the gym owner, Brandon Lowe, to post a note on the location’s door that the box would close.
In response to the uproar over the cancellation of the workout, Berger began tweeting on June 6. His tweets were captured in screenshots by RTV6 News in Indianapolis and Buzzfeed before Berger deleted them. Berger, who lives in Huntsville, Alabama, is a pastor and a CrossFit trainer, he told Buzzfeed News. He also was one of the first CrossFit affiliate owners, he said.
One of Berger’s tweets said: “As someone who personally believes celebrating 'pride' is a sin, I’d like to personally encourage #CrossFitInfiltrate for standing by their convictions and refusing to host an @indypride workout. The intolerance of the LGBTQ ideology toward any alternative views is mind-blowing.”
A tweet by Berger captured by Deadspin prior to it being deleted said: “Allow me to double-down. I believe @indypride is a celebration of sin, as do most Christians. I deleted this and reposted a different version to make sure it’s clear these are my personal beliefs, you know, since the Twitter mobs are hard at work trying to get me fired.”
CrossFit initially put Berger on administrative leave, but later on June 6, the company announced it had fired Berger.
CrossFit’s Twitter page said the following: “The statements made today by Russell Berger do not reflect the views of CrossFit Inc. For this reason, his employment with CrossFit has been terminated.”
Another tweet posted by the company said: “CrossFit is a diverse community in every way, and that’s what makes us strong. No matter who you are, how you’re built, what you believe, or who or how you love—we are proud of you.”
The Buzzfeed article quoted CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman as saying that Berger’s views were “appalling.” Glassman also used foul language to say that Berger should be quiet and “hide out for awhile.”
Buzzfeed also quoted Glassman as saying: “We do so much good work with such pure hearts—to have some zealot in his off-time do something this stupid, we’re all upset. The whole company is upset. This changes his standing with us. What that looks like, I don’t know. It’s so unfortunate.”
Glassman’s comments were offered prior to CrossFit announcing it had fired Berger.
Glassman also tweeted the following: “I am crazy proud of the gay community in CrossFit.”
The workout at the Indianapolis affiliate had been scheduled for June 7 to support Indy Pride, which is occurring this week in Indianapolis in support of the LGBTQ community in the area. Since the cancellation, the coaches at the affiliate have rescheduled the workout for another location for June 7.
A statement from Lowe sent to Fox59 about the cancellation of the workout said:
“The unfortunate line that is being read about the gym grossly misrepresents what CrossFit Infiltrate stands for and what it believes. The majority of the reviews and statements being read about the gym largely point out that Infiltrate’s community has been incredible and welcoming and that the decision not to host an Indy Pride event is the reason we are called bigots or discriminative. However, let the history of the gym speak for itself and for the position we take in this divisive atmosphere, CrossFit Infiltrate welcomes, serves, and prioritizes training people to be fit and functional in body, mind, and spirit. It never has and never will be anything but welcoming to all human beings who live, move, and breathe in God’s world.”
The controversy occurs as Glassman has embarked on a tour around the country to fight Big Soda, a battle that was chronicled in a recent Washington Post article. The article noted that Berger had accompanied Glassman on a trip to Washington, DC, to speak to members of Congress about Big Soda and why the Department of Defense should not give any contracts to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, which Glassman said is supported by Big Soda companies. Also on the trip was Director of Government Relations and Research Russell Greene, who along with Berger, writes a blog called The Russells. The tagline for the blog is "Defending the brand from junk science, yellow journalism, and invincible ignorance."
On Greene's Twitter page, he posted: "I worked with Russell Berger for years and consider him a friend. I do not agree with his views on homosexuality. At all. He made a grave mistake. His job gave him an authoritative voice on behalf of CrossFit and he should have taken that responsibility much more seriously."