Backlash over George Floyd tweet forces out CrossFit founder

FILE - In a  Friday, April 24, 2020 file photo, Alexis Garrod, CrossFit Potrero Hill partner and head coach, cleans off weight training equipment in an empty gym, which closed for shelter in place orders over COVID-19 concerns, in San Francisco. Reebok says it has cut ties with CrossFit chief executive and founder invoked George Floyds name in a Twitter post chastising a health group for saying that racism was a public health problem. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
FILE - In a Friday, April 24, 2020 file photo, Alexis Garrod, CrossFit Potrero Hill partner and head coach, cleans off weight training equipment in an empty gym, which closed for shelter in place orders over COVID-19 concerns, in San Francisco. Reebok says it has cut ties with CrossFit chief executive and founder invoked George Floyds name in a Twitter post chastising a health group for saying that racism was a public health problem. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The founder and CEO of CrossFit is stepping down after his tweet about George Floyd sparked a social media backlash and a wave of affiliated gyms cut ties with the company.

Reebok also dropped its affiliation with CrossFit this week.

Greg Glassman wrote on CrossFit's website late Tuesday that he would retire. Glassman had apologized earlier for tweets that sparked online outrage by connecting Floyd, an African American man who died at the hands of the Minneapolis police, and the coronavirus pandemic. He said he had made a mistake and should have been more sensitive, but denied being racist.

“On Saturday I created a rift in the CrossFit community and unintentionally hurt many of its members," Glassman said. “I cannot let my behavior stand in the way of HQ’s or affiliates’ missions.”

Glassman's exit may have been sealed after Buzzfeed posted a Zoom call he held with CrossFit affiliated gyms in which Glassman reportedly said: “We’re not mourning for George Floyd — I don’t think me or any of my staff are." Buzzfeed said it received the recording through its anonymous tip line.

The Zoom call took place hours before Glassman made a glib response on Twitter to a post by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a health research group, which said, “Racism is a public health issue."

It's FLOYD-19," he replied Saturday, and in a second tweet criticized the group's “failed” quarantine model and accused it of attempting to “model a solution to racism.”

Some 1,250 gyms have now severed links with CrossFit, according to industry blog Morning Chalk Up. An anonymously-curated Google spreadsheet lists hundreds of CrossFit affiliates with links to their social media accounts, with most on the list saying they have cut ties, or are considering doing so.