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CrossFit Fires Spokesman Who Tweeted LGBTQ Pride is a 'Sin'

Thursday Jun 7, 2018

A high-ranking spokesman for CrossFit has been fired by the fitness brand after tweeting support for a CrossFit gym's cancelation of a Pride event, writing that celebrating LGBTQ pride is a "sin," BuzzFeed reports.

CrossFit's "chief knowledge officer" Russell Berger, who often served as a company spokesperson, came under fire Wednesday after tweeting support of a CrossFit gym in Indianapolis, Ind. where its owners canceled a workout event celebrating Pride Month. As WTTV reports, management at CrossFit Infiltrate nixed the workout planned by coaches at the gym and it was reportedly explained in an email that "the owners of the gym value health and wellness, and they believe that this event does not."

A former member of the gym, Dan Mendoza, told the news station he reached out to the gym management for clarification of their position and said he received the following email:

"Our underlying goal for the staff and members at CrossFit Infiltrate and our other gyms CrossFit White River and University Ave CrossFit, is total health and well-being for the individual and the community. Total health involves the body, the emotions, relationships, and the spirit. At the foundational detractor from health, as we believe God sets the parameters for, is pride. We believe that true health forever can only be found within humility, not pride. Humility is seeing oneself as they truly are, and as God truly defines them to be. As a business we will choose to deploy our resources towards those efforts and causes that line up with our own values and beliefs."

After a backlash ensued, WTTV reports officials from CrossFit Infiltrate released a statement about the incident:

"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."

That's when Berger tweeted in support of the gym management, doubling down anti-LGBTQ sentiments. Though he has since deleted his tweets, they've were screen shot and saved.

"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," Berger wrote. "The intolerance of the LGBTQ ideology toward any alternative views is mind-blowing."

"The tactics of some in the LGBTQ movement toward dissent is an existential threat to freedom of expression," he added.

Responding to a Twitter user who took issue with his comments, the former exec wrote, "Thankfully I work for a company that tolerates disagreement. I have homosexual coworkers who I love and respect, and as far as I am aware, they aren't demanding I be punished for my views."

BuzzFeed reports Berger was first placed on unpaid leave of absence but CrossFit later confirmed on Twitter that he was fired.

"The statements made today by Russell Berger do not reflect the views of CrossFit Inc.," the company said. "For this reason, his employment with CrossFit has been terminated."

Speaking with BuzzFeed, CrossFit founder and CEO Greg Glassman said he does not agree with Berger's views, which he said are "appalling."

"He needs to take a big dose of 'shut the fuck up' and hide out for awhile. It's sad," Glassman said. "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."

BuzzFeed reports, Berger, who resides in Huntsville, Ala., is a CrossFit trainer who opened a CrossFit affiliate gym early in the company's run. He's also a pastor at a local church.

Berger also spoke with the website to elaborate his views, saying he was upset over the Pride event at the Indianapolis gym.

"I have no qualms with the gym owner expressing his personal convictions, I have no qualms with customers and coaches leaving because they have different convictions," he told BuzzFeed. "But I did have qualms with the massive response from people who had no direct business relationship with the affiliate, but just engaged in social media-organized public destruction of his business' reputation and forced him to shut his doors. I think that's an expression of pure intolerance, not being able to disagree with someone and engage in meaningful discourse."

He went on to say that he often tweets as a CrossFit employee but also as someone who speaks about religious issues "as a social media user and the pastor of a church." He added that his tweets are "nothing I haven't said before on social media." Nevertheless, he said the two issues rarely converge like they did with this incident.

"It became way too difficult to discern between me making statements of personal opinion, and me speaking as a voice for CrossFit," Berger told BuzzFeed, adding that he should have known his comments would be read as him representing CrossFit.

"I should have realized that, and I didn't until it was too late," he said. "I do regret it," adding that he still stands by his original comments.

"My actual point I was making, I still affirm it," Berger told BuzzFeed.

Watch WTTV's report on the CrossFit gym canceling its Pride workout in the clip below.


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