So here we go. Diversity in the CrossFit community was a topic we worked hard to cover in the month of February and now it’s back and for a much darker reason.
Good morning and welcome to the WODDITY podcast for news about CrossFit. We are a daily podcast, Monday through Friday, doing CrossFit news in five minutes or less.
My name is Ben Garves and today is Monday, the 1st of June, 2020. Don’t forget, links to all of these stories are in the show notes of your friendly neighborhood podcasting app, as well as on the new WODDITY.com.
Let’s give you some background. In December I began reaching out to prominent members of the CrossFit community – 30+ athletes, hundreds of gym owners, top officials at CrossFit Inc., and some of the highest-profile members of former CrossFit Media staff. In total, one gym owner agreed to participate, two major members of the media, and four athletes. The rest were unresponsive, and so began the fall of the series.
By the time February rolled around, the idea of a month-long series talking about diversity was in shambles. CrossFit’s official stance was that I was gaslighting and shouldn’t write about the topic. Both members of the media, after agreeing to participate, had stopped returning my messages. Every athlete I had spoken to, who seemed so excited to contribute, had ghosted me now that it was time to have the conversation.
One man, Marcus Lowther, an affiliate owner, author, and now a person I consider to be a friend, had the courage to speak up, even when those with the greatest voices in the community didn’t.
As a side note, Lowther has some great fitness childrens books which can be found at cartoonfitcomics.com if you want to support him. He wrote in his blog (marcuslowther.com) Saturday about his experience with the world’s reaction to George Floyd’s horrendous death. He looks at Lyrics from the DJ Khalil song “Elevate”, which says “I gotta go high, I gotta elevate.” He pairs that with Michelle Obama’s 2016 speech, quoting, “When they go low, we go high”, and he asks himself if there even is a high road right now. He writes, “We have posted protest videos and hashtags and donated to campaigns and fought for a bigger voice and created inspiring music and art and poetry. But here we are.”
He talks about the parallels between this moment in America and the story captured by Todd Philips and Juaquin Phoenix in Joker. He says, much like Joker, America is standing on the hood of a police car, watching the anarchy and chaos it has unleashed.
Lowther writes, “Forget the high road, let’s just find an actual road.”
It’s hard to say there was one catalyst for why this conversation is now so important in the CrossFit community. It could be a decade of silenced voices finally able or willing to speak up. It could be the largely one-sided voice and evangelical moral leadership of some of our greatest CrossFit athletes and community members. It could be the political divide caused by that rift and the silence of a growing number of progressive gym members around the world. It definitely has something to do with the atrocity that was the death of George Floyd and hundreds if not thousands of police brutality cases in the United States, the racially-motivated atrocities that came out of Jim Crow laws as early as the 1860s, and let’s just say it: the dark history of this country and slavery.
Another person who’s chosen not to be quiet during this time is John Wooley of Make WODs Great Again and the Make Pods Great Again podcast. His post joking that the CrossFit community was “noticeably white” was just as much an unspoken truth as it was satire. And maybe that’s the reason it has drawn so much ire from those not actively seeking a solution or conversation around diversity in our community. John took to YouTube last night to tell the community his intent is to better us, strengthen us, and have a conversation we need to have. Much like the effect WODDITY’s diversity series was meant to have back in February. The biggest difference is that we don’t have the same following: John, with how large his following is, is now the highest-profile individual to have the decency to talk about this.
Is the community broken? No. But I think we can do better. I think we should do better. I think we have the power to make our gyms more approachable to people with diverse backgrounds. We need to do what we do best: but instead of physical challenges that are the unknown and the unknowable, we need to get comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations. We need to ask why our membership ratios don’t match the face of our country. We need to ask what we can change. We need to ask what we can do better. And we need to be receptive to the answers.
And that’s it for the WODDITY Podcast for News About CrossFit on Monday, June 1st. If you’re grateful for having this podcast every morning, there is an easy way for you to show your gratitude. Give us a five-star rating and write a quick review. It means the world to us that you’re here and you appreciate the content. Thanks for listening. For WODDITY, I’m Ben Garves. Behave yourselves out there.