Did Anyone Really “Win” When Russell Berger Lost His Job?

by Tim Boyer, Columbus, OH, @TimDanBoyer, CrossFitter since 2013

Does anyone really "win" when someone loses their job?

I know there are plenty who would say “yes,” but I challenge you to reflect: What does it accomplish? Did this person learn a lesson about the underlying problem? Or did they learn to just keep their mouth shut unless around like-minded people? Perhaps I'm too idealistic, but hear me out.

There are plenty out there that hold firm in what they say but can’t really begin to understand the impact of their words.

It's very easy to get angry and infuriated when someone uses their public pulpit to spread a negative message and most of time it requires a response. (The exception being trolls.) But it's the response that dictates what happens after. The LGBTQ community feels the need to fight and fight hard, especially when that message appears rooted in beliefs that won't budge.

But to fight every fight with the same unrelenting, fiery anger is misguided. We must always have passion but we do not further our cause by trying to fire everyone that says something negative. When along that path do we try to get them to understand the implication of their words? When do we try to build a bridge instead of building a higher wall? Why is it always us against them?

But to fight every fight with the same unrelenting, fiery anger is misguided.

To toss those aside so easily only reinforces dissenting opinions that we are an enemy. With us or against us with no inbetween. There are plenty of well-intentioned people out there that say the wrong thing. There are plenty out there that hold firm in what they say but can't really begin to understand the impact of their words. The flame war leaves only scorched earth. Nobody learns. In fact, the persons on both ends of the fire only get pushed deeper into the recesses of their stance, they come no closer to the middle.

The flame war leaves only scorched earth. Nobody learns.

Harvey Milk was known for encouraging LGBTQ people to come out and increase visibility and to foster compassion from those who don't understand. I think more attempts to respond in a more measured way, to try and bridge a gap, than simply calling for a termination right away will pave the way for more progress. Engage to promote understanding, not to attack a dissenting view. I worry that by calling for termination so quickly (generally speaking) only presents that person as a victim with those whose views align with them and only increases the tension. Enduring change doesn’t happen with just a pink slip. Neither side should be treated like a doormat, no matter how badly they need to be checked.

It's all too easy to push away those who have a dissenting view. Sometimes opposing views are irreconcilable. But sometimes it's possible to agree to disagree. Sometimes it's possible to come to a mutual understanding through conversation and understanding another perspective in order to help them understand yours. Sometimes you can still interact with someone of dissenting views when you establish a mutual respect. Sometimes you can further the cause without the "gay wrath." But how will you know if you don't try?


Written with contributions from:

Joey Monahan

Barrett Teachworth

Will Lanier
Athlete Ally, OUTWOD, and The Out Foundation Respond to Anti-LGBTQ Statements by CrossFit HQ Executives


Athlete AllyOUTWOD, and The Out Foundation are outraged by the vehemently anti-LGBTQ statements released by Russell Burger, Chief Knowledge Officer of CrossFit HQ, via Twitter.

CrossFit is meant to be a community that welcomes and empowers all people. LGBTQ CrossFit athletes represent a significant percentage of the CrossFit population; to deny their existence by allowing Russell Burger to continue on staff without a formal apology to the entire community is abhorrent. As a competitive sport and fitness regimen designed to be universal, scalable and open to anyone willing to join in the camaraderie, CrossFit HQ should make it clear that discrimination and bigotry have no place in CrossFit.

During Pride Month, we should be celebrating and recognizing the influence LGBTQ people have had in sport and reflecting on progress — not regressing to hateful language. We hope for a formal and substantial apology from CrossFit HQ immediately.

Please contact Will Lanier at will@theoutfoundation.org or Anne Lieberman at anne.lieberman@athleteally.org for comment.


UPDATE: Russell Burger has been placed on unpaid leave pending review.

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Will Lanier