I spent the majority of my adolescent, teen and young adult life in punk and hardcore shows in Miami, FL. The typical show was filled with a mix of cultures, genders and backgrounds. When I opened Soul in 2010, I had some work experience, but much of my formative years were spent in the DIY/hardcore culture. I say this because I want you to understand that my opinions on life and experiences are mostly framed by my upbringing as a middle class Cuban American male in Miami and someone who was heavily involved in the South FL scene of hardcore and punk rock shows.
As a result, racism is not something I have dealt with much personally. I have had some experiences, but they aren’t even worth mentioning…
When I opened Soul, I wanted my gym to feel more like a hardcore show than most stuffy ass gyms I had been to. This became even more true when more and more CrossFit gyms started to open in 2012 and beyond. In the early days of CrossFit, I felt like I had something in common when I saw them wear a CrossFit shirt in public. The older I got and the longer my gym was around, the less that became true.
CrossFit gyms, in large part, are dominated by a culture that I do not relate with. It pains me to say this; however, this culture is dominated by white, conservative, pro gun, men. While I do have a lot of respect for individual people in that culture, it is a culture that I am not aligned with for more reasons than I care to write about in this piece. I say this not to offend anyone or to be a contrarian. I say it so you understand more about where I come from and why our gym is what it is today.
Yes, we have made many decisions to differentiate ourselves from other gyms. Yes, I love to troll and fuck with people. Yes, I am angry often times. Yes, I have a chip on my shoulder. Yes, I feel like I have something to prove often times. Yes, my ego gets me into trouble. However, I feel like it is time we stood up and said something about this topic. Since the killing of George Floyd on May 25th, I have had a wide range of emotions.
To see countless gym owners talk more about how their constitutional rights were taken away by their business closing a few weeks back and now stay completely silent about the unjust killing of African Americans is most definitely concerning and does remind me how little I have in common with those people. Is my business hurting? Yes, more than I have legally been advised to talk about on this platform. Do we as a nation have bigger problems right now than the ones I am personally facing? Also yes.
Honestly, I don’t feel like I have the right to speak publicly on many of these topics due to the nature that I am not African American, and I’m not well educated on the topic. I also have some mixed feelings about activism on social media. If I was going to post and repost things on the internet about what is happening right now, it would be more consistent with direct action that I am taking in my personal life to make sure that my family and I are leaving a positive mark on the earth. I don’t see anything positive coming from me posting anything else on the internet right now in regards to the current situation.
I don’t need to pound my chest to prove to Twitter that I am an ally. Personally, I have chosen to take this time to educate my son about the world we live in and how what happened to George Floyd is an act of racism and the problems we have with police all over the world. I have also taken this time to connect with some people in my life and share different perspectives so I can better understand what their needs and thoughts are on the situation. I would much rather connect with someone directly than judge them through the lens of social media right now.
I’m also not quite sure what people in our CrossFit community are waiting for from HQ. CrossFit is a training method not your political affiliation. If you are waiting for them to respond to what is happening in the world to either A) be pissed off or B) form your own opinion, you are a part of the problem. Be a part of the solution. You like burpees and thrusters? Great, you do CrossFit. Stop looking at them for more guidance than that. You are affiliated with them, not a franchisee.
But you want my personal opinion??? Sure, I’ll put it out there. If 50 years from now the world is a better place and my own gym had to burn to get there, I’m ok with that. With that said, I know some AMAZING police officers who put their life on the line daily to help humanity. You can kiss my ass if you think that all cops are murderers. There most definitely is a deep, institutionalized program with policing in this country and there are countless things that need to change like militarizing police, constitutional violations, the obvious racism and much more. It’s crazy that one can complete the police academy in less time than it takes to become a coach at Soul. But, to say all cops are bad is also a huge part of the problem. Our problems are not black and white (no pun intended).
So what lead me to this point? Two times in the last few days I was challenged and educated on a few of my opinions and realized that Soul does have a platform and there are people listening. So today, we are choosing to use our platform to let people know what side of history and humanity we stand on.
Saying that everyone is welcome at Soul regardless of their background sounds so corny to me. From my perspective, it’s quite obvious just by looking at our gym. I would prefer our gym and clients resembled an AA meeting or halfway house than a jock filled college football locker room, and I don’t think we need to prove that. However, I do think that we need to stand up and let the greater “community” know where we are, and we want to let people on the outside know that racism, willful ignorance, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, classism or any other kind of hatred is not only unacceptable in the doors of our gym but will be dealt with swiftly.
In summary, I am posting this to let people know where we are as a business and culture. I do want to let the world know that not all gyms are created equal and if you feel marginalized, judged by who you are or what you represent at your gym, you are welcome at Soul as long as you put love first.
If there is anything we as a program can do to do better, please hit me up.