Megan Burney

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The gym that was formerly known as CrossFit Outbreak on Broadway has rebranded itself.  The high intensity, cross-training facility is part of a small conglomerate of gyms now called BK Fit Studios.  The Co-Founders, Adam Sturm and Shimi Litkowski have been Brooklyn gym owners since 2014 and have studios in Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, East Williamsburg, Williamsburg and Clinton Hill.  Sturm says the decision to detach from the CrossFit brand had been on their minds for the past six months or so, but recent events relating to the death of George Floyd and CrossFit’s stance on the issue of Black Lives Matter ultimately pushed the duo to divorce itself from the company.

“At first CrossFit [HQ] didn’t respond at all to the Black Lives Matter Movement, they didn’t put out a statement,” Sturm explains.  “And my understanding of the situation was that [CrossFit] works with a lot of people in the police force and in the military, so they were trying to walk the line and keep everyone happy.  But then the CEO and Founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, put out a really unfortunate statement, basically saying the equivalent of ‘all lives matter’, but maybe not quite as egregious.”

In addition to some controversial tweets by Glassman,  (who has seemingly deactivated his account since, see picture below) BuzzFeed News also reported that while on a Zoom call with staff members Glassman flat out said “We’re not mourning for George Floyd — I don’t think me or any of my staff are.”

Although Glassman offered a public apology and has subsequently stepped down as CEO, the CrossFit name has suffered at the hand of his insensitivity.  It has been widely reported that gyms all across the country, like BK Fit, have broken ties with the CrossFit name and Reebok also pulled out of a partnership with the company.  

So while Sturm and Litkowski were already considering a rebranding due to the mothership company’s “emphasis on the competitive side of CrossFit or The CrossFit Games,” the repeated comments by Glassman, that Sturm calls “racist,” left them with no other option.

“At first we waited for him to back track and retract what he said, but then he doubled down in a bad way,” Sturm recalls.  “We had to divorce ourselves from CrossFit.  We still appreciate the methodology and the movement but had to get away from the name, so we totally rebranded.”

And to do so, the partners at BK Fit Studios have decided not to renew their “loose” affiliation with CrossFit by discontinuing all payments to the company.

“This was about the principle for us,” says Sturm.  “We are in Brooklyn, we are in Bushwick, we are in Bed-Stuy and East Williamsburg, and we have a lot of black and brown members and POC members and we couldn’t support that statement.  And [from a business standpoint] in our community not having CrossFit in our name is a plus.”

Sturm says that he and BK Fit Studios stand with Black Lives Matters in the fight for criminal justice reform and against police brutality.  And he reports that his community has overwhelmingly supported the move, however, they did lose one member.

“He had family in the military and in the police force,” Sturm says.  “But his values and our values are not in alignment.  We will not stand racism.  So it’s okay.”

As for other gyms that have chosen to rebrand, Sturm says they “interestingly fall along red and blue state lines” and that he’s not surprised that “almost every CrossFit in the New York City area has changed its name and moved away from brand.”

On top of the controversy and the emphasis on competition that Sturm sees as “limiting” and “sometimes be dangerous”, he also joked about a third reason to change the name of his facilities.

“There was ‘CrossFit’ and then there was ‘Outbreak’,” he laughed, alluding to the poor fate of owning a business with such a name amidst the deadly Coronavirus outbreak that has caused a global pandemic.

And surviving during the pandemic has been hard on small gyms, who, as Sturm sees it, are still at a disadvantage.

“Gyms are not on the schedule for reopening and not everybody realizes it,” he says.  “It’s really upsetting.  Cuomo is restricting gym reopening because of concerns over air-conditioning and ventilation, but we don’t even have AC in our facilities.”

BK Fit has been supplementing Zoom classes with live classes taught in McCarren Park, curbside training outside their facilities and they’ve even been hosting sessions at their outdoor gym at the East Williamsburg location. 

Cover photo from BK Fit Studios.

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