Russell Berger, the chief knowledge officer (whatever that is) and spokesperson for the ultra-successful fitness company/lifestyle brand CrossFit has been placed on an indefinite and unpaid leave of absence after he proudly voiced his homophobic views on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
Berger had tweeted his support for a pride event a CrossFit gym in Indianapolis had cancelled because the owners did not believe the LGBTQ community “values health and wellness.” Several coaches and employees quit in response to the gym’s discrimination, and it now faces closure as a result.
In a series of since-deleted tweets, Berger wrote about how he “personally believes ‘pride’ is a sin,” and cites his resentment with what he perceives to be “the intolerance of the LGBTQ ideology toward any alternative views.” Twitter user @tousleshommes screencapped the tweets, accompanying them with a cheeky caption which reads, “it looks like crossfit execs are celebrating pride month a little differently than other corporations.”
“As someone who personally believes ‘pride’ is a sin, I’d like to personally encourage #CrossFitInfiltrate for standing by their convictions and refusing to hose an @indypride workout. 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. The lack of tolerance for disagreement, which has been replaced with bullying Twitter mobs promising ‘consequences,’ should be a concern regardless of your political stance.”
“Allow me to double-down,” the former CrossFit employee responded to those condemning his remarks. “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.”
Many people in the LGBTQ, CrossFit, and good human being communities did indeed call for Berger’s firing, denouncing his statements as hateful and exclusionary.
Subsequent tweets by @tousleshommes reveal that Berger is also very vocal concerning his views on female reproductive health and African-Americans.
Wednesday evening, CrossFit’s official Twitter account quoted the company’s founder and CEO Greg Glassman as saying, “I am crazy proud of the gay community in CrossFit.” A subsequent tweet announced that CrossFit had placed Russell Berger on unpaid leave until a formal review has been made.
Earlier that afternoon, Glassman had told BuzzFeed News that he thought Berger’s comments were “appalling,” adding that “He needs to take a big dose of ‘shut the f*ck up’ and hide out for awhile.”
“It’s sad,” Glassman continued in the interview with BuzzFeed. “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.”
As for Berger, he regrets the social media backlash and work repercussions he’s suffered as a result of his bigotry, but he still stands by it. “My actual point I was making, I still affirm it,” he told BuzzFeed.
UPDATE: Berger replied in a Twitter comment that he had been “officially terminated,” a statement which was confirmed by CrossFit’s official Twitter account.