Russell Berger, former chief knowledge officer with CrossFit Inc.
Russell Berger, former chief knowledge officer with CrossFit Inc.

CrossFit exec fired over shocking tweets

A SENIOR CrossFit employee has been sacked for calling LGBTQ pride a "sin".

Russell Berger, chief knowledge officer and head trainer at the fitness company, sparked outrage from gay rights groups with a series of tweets in response to a decision by an Indianapolis gym to cancel a special pride-themed workout session.

CrossFit Infiltrate earlier this week cancelled the Indy Pride event that had been organised by coaches, saying "the owners of the gym value health and wellness, and they believe that this event does not".

"We believe that true health forever can only be found within humility, not pride," the gym said in an email to members. "As a business we will choose to deploy our resources towards those efforts and causes that line up with our own values and beliefs."

Dan Mendoza told Fox 59 he and his partner decided to cancel their memberships after reading the email. "I didn't know what to think, because everyone was so friendly and welcoming," he said. "I didn't feel welcome, you know, I didn't feel the way I did when I first started."

With the gym - which has now closed its doors - being bombarded with negative online reviews, Mr Berger came to the owners' defence.

"As someone who personally believes celebrating 'pride' is a sin, I'd like to personally encourage #CrossFitInflitrate for standing by their convictions and refusing to host an @indypride workout," he tweeted on Wednesday. "The intolerance of the LGBTQ ideology toward any alternative views is mind-blowing."

He then doubled down, saying he believed Indy Pride was "a celebration of sin, as do most Christians", while hitting out at the "Twitter mobs" who were "hard at work trying to get me fired".

"The tactics of some in the LGBTQ movement towards dissent is an existential threat to freedom of expression," he continued. "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."

In response to the growing backlash, CrossFit's official Twitter account posted a message from chief executive Greg Glassman, "I am crazy proud of the gay community in CrossFit". Shortly afterwards, it announced Mr Berger had been placed on unpaid leave.

Sarah Kate Ellis, chief executive of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) tweeted, "Thank you @CrossFitCEO for taking swift action and sending a message that accelerating acceptance matters."

On Thursday, Mr Berger announced he had been "officially terminated".

In a statement to The Washington Post, Mr Berger said 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.

"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.

"The 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."

frank.chung@news.com.au