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Allegations of systemic workplace racism took down execs at Bon Appétit, CrossFit and more

·West Coast Correspondent
·7 min read

George Floyd died on May 25, after a police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. His murder, along with the unjust deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, have ignited historic protests across the nation and dozens of countries around the world.

As Democratic congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents Texas’ 18th congressional district, said during Tuesday’s funeral service for Floyd in Houston: “There will be no more eight minutes and 46 seconds of police brutality...There will be no more eight minutes and 46 seconds that you will be in pain without getting justice. His assignment turned into a purpose. And that purpose was around the world that there are people rising up that will never sit down until you get justice.”

Black Americans face systemic racism on the street, in their own homes and in the workplace. The physical protests have also created space for many Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) to call out business leaders, many of whom have shown questionable behavior themselves, who have created, facilitated or perpetuated racist environments.

The current momentum surrounding Black Lives Matter have catapulted these concerns to the fore, and are resulting in changes at the top of some major organizations.

The Wing

Audrey Gelman, co-founder and CEO of The Wing, a membership-based co-working and networking club, resigned on Thursday morning. This decision came as employees orchestrated a ‘digital walkout’ on Instagram and Twitter, posting a statement that reads, in part, “Simply put, The Wing doesn’t practice the intersectional feminism that it preaches to the rest of the world.”

The very purpose of the community was to give women (and eventually people of all genders) a welcoming and space space to convene. But criticisms of The Wing’s ironically anti-feminist culture from insiders and former employees have been building over the last few months.

“The past three months have brought change to our society, our culture, our business and our team in ways no one could have imagined. The Wing remains a vital resource for thousands of women navigating their path to success. But the moment calls for a rethinking of how we meet their needs moving forward and for new leadership that can guide The Wing into the future,” The Wing said in an official statement provided to Yahoo Finance.

A three-person “office of the CEO” Lauren Kassan (co-founder and current COO), Celestine Maddy (head of marketing), and Ashley Peterson (head of operations). “This move will allow us to create a sustainable business, and achieve the bold vision of advancing all women through community,” according to the company.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05:  Founder of The Wing, Audrey Gelman, visits Build Studio on June 5, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: Founder of The Wing, Audrey Gelman, visits Build Studio on June 5, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images)

CrossFit

On Tuesday evening, Greg Glassman stepped down as CEO of CrossFit, a fitness brand he founded 20 years ago. Over the weekend, Glassman found himself in hot water after calling the recent protests “FLOYD-19.”

His tweet was in response to a message from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington: “Racism and discrimination are critical public health issues.” The day after Glassman tweeted his so-called joke, Adidas’s Reebok brand, ended its nine-year exclusive sponsorship of the CrossFit Games. The tweet is merely one small example of Glassman’s callous mindset surrounding this moment of reckoning in America.

“We’re not mourning for George Floyd, I don’t think me or any of my staff are,” said Glassman on a Zoom call to CrossFit gym owners, according to a recording of the call provided to The New York Times. “Can you tell me why I should mourn for him? Other than it’s the ‘white’ thing to do. I get that pressure but give me another reason.”

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Glassman announced his ‘retirement’ in a post on the company blog: “On Saturday I created a rift in the CrossFit community and unintentionally hurt many of its members.” Dave Castro, head of CrossFit Games, will replace Glassman. In a separate post titled “Why Didn’t CrossFit Just Say Something?” the company released a statement, acknowledging the need for change.

“Exhaustion and a long history of silent grievances have been laid bare on social media. We cannot change what has happened, but we ask for forgiveness while we thoroughly examine ourselves,” CrossFit’s statement reads in part.

Bon Appétit

One day earlier, Bon Appétit’s Adam Rapoport resigned from his post as editor in chief of the Condé Nast publication. The move came after freelance food editor Tammie Teclemariam posted a screenshot of a 2013 Instagram photo of he and his wife dressed up as Puerto Ricans for Halloween.

Sohla El-Waylly, an assistant food editor, also took to Instagram stories Monday afternoon to decry the “systemic racism that runs rampant” within Condé Nast at large. A 35-year-old with over 15 years of professional experience, El-Waylly says her annual salary is $50,000 even though she has “been pushed in front of video as a display of diversity.” She says her role has been “to assist mostly white editors with significantly less experience” who are paid for their appearances on the publication’s popular YouTube channel.

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Condé Nast denies the allegation that it only pays white employees to appear on camera, tweeting: “We go to great lengths to ensure that employees are paid fairly, in accordance with their roles and experience, across the entire company. We take the well-being of our employees seriously and prioritize a people-first approach to our culture.”

Amanda Shapiro, the editor of Bon Appétit newsletter Healthyish, has been named the acting deputy director of the magazine, but she told her colleagues that she would only be taking the job on a temporary basis, and “pressed for a person of color to be named as the new editor in chief,” according to The New York Times.

Refinery29

Fellow lifestyle publication Refinery29, which was acquired by Vice in November, has been plagued by accusations of a culture mired in racism and discrimination. Over the last few weeks, former employees of color took to social media to spotlight the microaggressions, pay inequity and lack of Black leadership they witnessed at the company. Also on Monday evening, Christene Barberich stepped down from her role as global editor in chief, which she’s held since 2005, when she co-founded Refinery29.

“It's time for a new generation of leadership that’s truly reflective of the diversity of our audience with divergent points of view, one that builds and expands on our original mission to amplify and celebrate a wide range of voices, perspectives, and stories...stories that need and deserve to be told,” she wrote in an Instagram post. Last week, Refinery29’s leadership team published a note as accusations of mistreatment and blatant racism continued to build, and the company has since reshared Barberich’s personal post.

The media world has faced longstanding criticisms for its overwhelming whiteness and lack of diverse voices, with many pointing to the pipeline that hasn’t made room for anyone without privilege or wealth. Only over the last few years, newsrooms and media outlets have normalized paid internships; in 2014, some 7,500 former interns filed a class-action lawsuit for being underpaid or not paid at all during their stints at high-end magazines like Vanity Fair and Vogue. After agreeing to a $5.8 million settlement, Condé Nast ended up scrapping its internship program entirely.

The year 2020 — and the start of a new decade — has been defined by a global health pandemic and a swelling civil unrest, leaving little to no room for amnesty, and the tenor of the conversation indicates that bad behavior from people in powerful positions will simply not be tolerated.

Demands for representation, particularly those in the highest positions, have been given a megaphone during the current movement for racial equality. Legacy institutions, in particular, that were defined by white privilege for so long, are facing mounting pressure to prioritize inclusivity as new leaders are appointed. Harper’s Bazaar just named Samira Nasr, as editor in chief of the magazine. Nasr, of Lebanese and Trinidadian descent, is the first woman of color to hold the top job in the 153-year history of the publication.

Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s West Coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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