From getting in Twitter fights, to intimidating parody identities and satire blogs online, there's no shortage of examples of where CrossFit should consider aligning its social strategy to align with that of other established social media channels for professional sports organizations.
Does the NBA try to shut down a Twitter handle for James Hardens' beard? Does the NFL go after the countless parody Twitter accounts surrounding its athletes and coaches? Does ESPN aggressively try to shut down the NOT SportsCenter Twitter account with its 200,000+ followers?
My guess is no.
Then again, despite its unorthodox and controversial methods, one could also argue that it's somehow working. At the time of posting, CrossFit has nearly 650,000 Facebook fans and over 100,000 followers on Twitter.
CrossFit's controversial apology
On September 9, CrossFit's official Facebook page posted the following update:
We have decided to remove the racial satire about CrossFit from our feed. Thanks to the users who informed us that the blog’s author is an actual racist- a view so pathetic that it is sometimes hard to distinguish from comedy written to mock racists. We apologize if you found this offensive.
The post CrossFit's Facebook linked to? A post on a racist blog called "Stuff Black People Don't Like."
"We apologize if you found this offensive," was not the kind of apology that many CrossFitters were looking for.
This type of apology is similar to the snarky apologies of "I'm sorry that you're getting upset about what I'm saying," or "I'm sorry that you are oversensitive about everything," where you're actually assigning blame to the listener, rather than admitting fault.
The blog post that CrossFit linked to included hateful and ridiculous racist comments about how the author perceives how black people exercise, spend their money, wear their hair, and even the absurd generalization of, "every time an expensive new sneaker premieres, black men kill each other."
How could a post with this type of racist content make it onto a professional organization's Facebook page to its growing list of 650,000 Facebook fans?
Making matters worse, how could its apology not even come close to admitting fault. CrossFit did not admit that it didn't properly review the post, then placed the blame on its fans for finding obviously racist content offensive.
CrossFit fans react
A number of CrossFit's fans were not only upset about the post itself, but the company's social media presence and apology.
A CrossFit affiliate operator, Daniel Boyd wrote, "You guys really need a little more research some of the things you post. What you do and don't do trickles down to us affiliates."
As a fan and practitioner of Crossfit I have noticed particularly on the CF twitter feed that there have been an abundance of posts lately that are being put up that have little to nothing to do with Crossfit but rather are an expression of an individual or individuals personal perspective and not representative of the Crossfit ethos or business model. Due to the growing diversity of CF this of course could not only jeopardise the brand but also potentially or unintentionally hurt people who love the brand and model.
"Urgh, hate the 'We apologise if anyone were offended.' If it's worth an apology then just do it without qualifiers," wrote another CrossFitter.
Another commented, "HQ needs to hire a new PR staff. Quit posting about race, sexual preference, etc. I love & despise crossfit. I love being a crossfitter for the fitness yet at times I'm ashamed to be associated with it."
Marcus McLaughlin perhaps summed it up the frustration with CrossFit's apology by posting,
"This apology is spectacularly poorly written and I don't think I can accept it. Firstly, to acknowledge the possibility that this is 'satire' is ridiculous. It's absolutely not satire and is clearly intended as racism. I'm not sure if it was read prior to posting it, but if it were, it's even more worrisome. Secondly, you apologize to 'those whom this offended'. No, you should be apologizing to the entire crossfit community and brand for injecting racist vitriol of this variety."
Even with its growing popularity, CrossFit is still small enough that a story like this and the company's social media tactics doesn't make major headlines on ESPN. With CrossFit's vibrant community playing such a huge part in the sport's rapid growth, as CrossFit continues its journey to truly becoming the "Sport of Fitness," missteps like these could be the downfall of an otherwise invaluable fitness brand.