Fitness giant CrossFit flexed its anti-discrimination muscles by firing its de facto spokesman, who also happens to be an Orthodox Christian pastor, for posting homophobic rants on Twitter.
It all started when Russell Berger (below), a “legal researcher” for CrossFit, got mad that a CrossFit-affiliated gym was forced to close due to numerous cancelled memberships. The members cancelled only after the gym, for religious reasons, shut down a special workout that had been planned to honor LGBTQ Pride.
Berger wrote a series of tweets in support of Indiana’s CrossFit Infiltrate and against the LGBTQ community. Here’s just one of them:
Specifically, Berger said celebrating “pride” is a sin and hailed CrossFit Infiltrate for “standing by their convictions and refusing to host” the LGBTQ workout. He went on to say the “tactics of some in the LGBTQ movement” go against the “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,” he wrote yesterday.
He then “doubled down” on his initial homophobic comments, trying to save his job by clarifying that these are his “personal beliefs.”
“Allow me to double-down. 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.”
In an ironic twist, Berger was originally referring to the Twitter mobs that he believes were responsible for the closure of CrossFit Infiltrate. But the “mob” soon turned on him, promising to get him fired, and he ultimately deleted the tweets.
But deleting the evidence didn’t save Berger because, as we all know, the internet is forever. CrossFit originally placed him on an unpaid leave of absence, but then fired him shortly thereafter. The company also said that his statements “do not reflect the views of CrossFit,” and CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman said he was “crazy proud of the gay community in CrossFit.”
“I am crazy proud of the gay community in CrossFit.”
— CrossFit (@CrossFit) June 6, 2018
“He needs to take a big dose of ‘shut the fuck up’ and hide out for a while. It’s sad,” Glassman said in an interview. “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.”
The strangest part is that Berger, a CrossFit spokesman who spoke about CrossFit issues while tagging CrossFit affiliates on Twitter, deflected from his connection to the company by saying he was speaking on his account as (wait for it) a pastor. As if we were all supposed to know this.
Berger, who lives in Huntsville, Alabama, is a CrossFit trainer who opened up an early CrossFit affiliate. He is also an Orthodox Christian and a pastor at a local church, he told BuzzFeed News…
Berger says he often tweets about CrossFit as an employee and public representative of the company, as well as religious issues “as a social media user and the pastor of a church.” So his tweets are “nothing I haven’t said before on social media.”
Well, turns out the “I’m a pastor” defense didn’t save him.
CrossFit will be moving forward without the Cross defender.
(Screenshot via YouTube)