Updated: Thursday, June 7, 2018, 8:30 p.m. EDT: In addition to Russell Berger’s firing, the CrossFit location that he praised for canceling an event coinciding with Indy Pride has been shut down.
The Indianapolis Star reports that the downtown Indianapolis CrossFit Infiltrate, located on West Ninth Street, has a sign posted on its door that reads: “CrossFit Infiltrate has determined that it will no longer operate business at this location. We thank you for your patronage and support.”
Google lists the business as being permanently closed.
I know we are used to white men with white privilege getting away with their fuckery for the most part, but every now and again, one of them gets their comeuppance, and it is super sweet to behold. On those days we rejoice, because the universe gives us just a little bit for our long-suffering.
Meet Russell Berger, a Christian conservative from Alabama who up until Wednesday was the chief knowledge officer for CrossFit. Russell does not agree with the “gay lifestyle.” He believes that celebrating gay pride “is a sin” and that the “LGBTQ movement” lacks tolerance—and is “an existential threat to freedom of expression.” He feels so strongly about this that he took to Twitter to make these pronouncements in a series of now-deleted tweets.
“The tactics of some in the LGBTQ movement toward dissent is an existential threat to freedom of expression,” Berger wrote in one tweet. “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.”
Obviously, said “Twitter mobs” must have come for Berger’s neck and his job, because he deleted that tweet and wrote another that said: “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. The intolerance of the LGBTQ ideology toward any alternative views is mind-blowing.”
Berger’s comments were in response to an announcement from CrossFit Infiltrate in Indianapolis that gym ownership had canceled an event coinciding with Indy Pride.
When others questioned Berger about his stance and comments, he doubled down on them. Literally.
“Allow me to double-down,” Berger wrote. “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.”
While the Twitter mobs likely drew attention to the tweets and made CrossFit corporate aware of them, his employer could also have fired him because of the position those tweets put it in from a legal standpoint. Can you say “hostile work environment”? I knew you could.
Whatever the conversations were behind the scenes, Berger took to Twitter once again to inform everyone that he had been fired:
CrossFit also tweeted that he had been terminated:
“CrossFit is a diverse community in every way, and that’s what makes us strong. No matter who you are, how you’re built, what you believe, or who or how you love—we are proud of you,” the company wrote. “The statements made today by Russell Berger do not reflect the views of CrossFit Inc. For this reason, his employment with CrossFit has been terminated.”
The Washington Post asked Berger on Thursday to explain his comments. He responded via text and said the following:
As a Christian, I believe everyone, myself included, is guilty of breaking our moral obligations to God and deserves punishment. But by turning from our sin and trusting fully in Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven and reconciled to our creator. I love those who the LGBTQ community represents, and want them to know Christ, and reveling in sin is a heartbreaking obstacle to that.
I use the word ‘sin’ to describe pride events, and the sexual lifestyles associated with them, because that’s what God’s Word calls it, and I believe that God’s Word is true.
He then added:
[T]he same theology that leads me to this view leads me to the knowledge that all humans are created in God’s image, and are therefore inherently valuable and deserve to hear this offer of God’s grace. From the Christian perspective, the most hateful thing I could do for someone would be to lie to him or her about sin and our need for Christ, as unpopular as this may be in our culture today.
Berger told the Post that he regretted putting CrossFit in “a difficult position.”
“My comments where imprudent, and I drug my company in a difficult position, which I deeply regret,” he said. “I am particularly saddened for my employer and co-workers, who do incredible and life-changing work for millions of people, and are now forced to respond with their time and resources to this ordeal.”
Shorter Russell Berger: “I SAID WHAT I SAI—references available upon request.”
(Thanks to The Root News Fellow Anne Branigin for that little gem.)