Too Little Too Late: CrossFit fumbles BLM response.
In the wake of last weeks’ protests, businesses—ranging from large-scale corporations to local mom-and-pop shops—symbolically stood in solidarity with protestors by releasing public statements decrying racism and police brutality. Speaking out against racism, homophobia, and similar social injustices isn’t always the first instinct for companies nervous about alienating potential customers or altering perceptions of their brand. This past month marks one of the first major events where almost every single company put out a statement in some form or another. Some, like Fashion Nova, were conspicuously absent from the conversation. Others, like CrossFit, were at first quiet, then deafening in their response. It began with a blog post by an influential CrossFit affiliate, decrying the brand’s lack of messaging around the BLM movement and showcasing an ill-conceived email from CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman. The brand spent the rest of the week backpedaling on its social platforms, followed closely by the resignation of Glassman and an official statement from the brand. As a result of their initial fumbles, affiliates and partners alike have dropped their connections with CrossFit in droves. What went wrong? They failed to join the ranks. The response to the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests was swift and widespread. Many companies and organizations bolstered their written responses with donations to black-focused funds and nonprofits and began the process of building diversity and inclusivity into the fabric of their company culture. It took CrossFit two weeks to issue any sort of statement—prompted by the affiliate’s blog post exposing the company’s CEO. They issued a non-apology. Their official “apology” statement on Facebook was underwhelming in the face of so many other positive messages of support from the business community at large. The post didn’t use the words “sorry” or “apologize” at all, and also never mentioned racism, police brutality, or the ongoing protests—failing to acknowledge black community members until the last line of the post. CrossFit missed a prime opportunity to take responsibility for its missteps, express condolences to those affected, and announce a plan to be a better ally. Their executive leadership team was not prepared. Solid communications plans ensure spokespeople are trained and prepared. If Glassman and his team had been knowledgeable about the best way to respond to a public movement like this, or if they had consulted with a professional immediately as they crafted their response, they may well have been looking at a completely different outcome. To succeed in this day and age, a company has to go beyond profits and connect with its target audiences. A robust communications plan can mean the difference between a brief but forgettable crisis and the downfall of a company.