CrossFit Kids: Divorce and Custody - Page 2

Becca Borawski Jenkins

Coach

Coaching, Strength and Conditioning, Martial Arts

The Beginning of the End of CrossFit Kids

In 2007, Jeff Martin was working a full-time biotech job. He got up at 4:30am to prepare for work, drove 45 minutes to work, worked nine hours, drove 45 minutes home, taught at the gym all night, then went home to work on CrossFit Kids, going to bed at close to midnight every night. Mikki was matching this effort, raising their family and devoting her time to running the gym and CrossFit Kids.

 

Later that same year, Jeff was laid off, but he was offered other biotech job opportunities. The Martins met with Glassman to get his advice. They felt if Jeff retained another biotech job, they would not be able to move CrossFit Kids forward. Glassman encouraged them to go all-in with CrossFit Kids and invest everything in the company, reiterating that it was theirs forever. The Martins cashed in all of their stocks and retirement investments to give themselves the capital to concentrate 100% on CrossFit Kids.

 

 

Fast-forward back to 2014. The Martins trusted their financial future to CrossFit Kids and to CrossFit, Inc. But because the profit-sharing promise never came to be, they were facing an empty retirement account. They had created a company worth millions of dollars and were faced with having to start over, with no savings to stand on for their children or their own future.

 

After six months of frustrating and contentious “negotiation,” the Martins went away from what would be the final meeting believing everything was about to be settled. They were waiting for final word from CFHQ. They hosted and attended a CrossFit Kids course that weekend, but didn’t hear from CFHQ on Monday due to a holiday.

 

On Tuesday morning, the Martins were fired and on Thursday morning they were served with a lawsuit. It became clear to the Martins that CrossFit, Inc. had been drawing up this lawsuit the whole time the “negotiations” were going on. And despite Castro and Carroll being the agents of the negotiations, the Martins feel firmly that Glassman was behind it all.

 

The Trademark Is Not the Issue

Mikki believes the argument about trademark is simply a way to win public favor:

 

I think the use of the defense that it’s all about the trademark is easy to sell to affiliates who have lots of concerns about trademark … They want other people not to be able to use that name without going through the steps they went through and the investment that they went through. And that’s very understandable. So I think that’s an easy tool for HQ to use - that everything is about defending the trademark, when in some cases, such as ours, we feel it has almost nothing to do with it at this point.

 

To prove the point, Jeff Martin asked, “Where were we going?” Jeff and Mikki were never leaving CrossFit, never taking their CrossFit Kids brand elsewhere, never threatening to break off or market to another entity. They were always fully on board with being part of CrossFit, Inc. and continued to run a CrossFit affiliate gym.

 

Instead of taking the bait and seeing them as the villains, the Martins ask people to dig deeper, to not believe the vitriol on the Internet. To ask why CrossFit might behave this way when they’ve been given everything they asked for. The Martins have already handed over everything CrossFit requested, including the domain names at the center of the original dispute, so why has CrossFit not dropped the lawsuit? And why should this concern every affiliate owner?

 

crossfit, crossfit kids, greg glassman, crossfit hq, jeff martin, mikki martin

Jeff Martin was honored with the rare title of "Coach" in 2006.

 

Why the Martins Should Matter to All Affiliate Owners

In a recent and already infamous interview, Greg Glassman stated that he runs his business like a motorcycle gang. Some fans of CrossFit find this amusing, but the Martins think the analogy is all too telling.

 

 

“If you think about it, his analogy of ‘I run my business like a motorcycle gang’ really applied,” said Jeff. “Mikki and I are the perennial prospect. Not the patch members like Dave and Nicole. The prospects, and ‘I want what the prospect has, I’m taking it, and I can take it because I have the gang behind me.’”

 

Mikki elaborated:

 

There’s this whole idea of "ninety lawyers [sic]." What’s that for? That’s to scare people and intimidate them, and then things happen somehow where somebody says or does something that they don’t want, and they lose their connection to HQ. They were an L1 trainer or they had a great affiliate where they gave courses and all of the sudden there are no more courses scheduled there or they’re no longer staffed, they’re contractors, so they’re staffing changes. Those mysterious things occur, and people are scared. We see it and that’s why we have this ‘unbullyable’ theme. People feel bullied.

 

“They used the affiliate agreement that we have as Brand X to say that they own everything we’ve ever done,” Jeff said. “That should scare you.”

 

CrossFit Hasn’t Given Up

Despite the fact that the Martins have moved on, CrossFit has not. CrossFit Brand X, the Martins' CrossFit gym - the fifth affiliate that ever existed - was recently notified by email that their affiliation was revoked. And the lawsuit still stands. I reached out to CrossFit, Inc. for their thoughts, but was unable to get a comment. I was referred to their statement on The Russells blog:

 

The Martins have introduced countless people to CrossFit and had immeasurable impact on trainers and young athletes throughout our community. Still, no amount of time as CrossFit Inc.’s licensees or employees would make them owners of “CrossFit Kids.” Seemingly, the Martins had always understood this as they frequently acknowledged in print and otherwise that they were licensees—not owners—of the CrossFit Kids mark. CrossFit Inc.’s intent has never been to harm the Martins. After exhausting all other avenues for reasonable resolution, CrossFit Inc. was faced with point-blank refusal of access and administration over its own domain name, websites, social-media accounts and email accounts, thus had no choice but to file suit to protect the CrossFit brand.

 

Christopher Wimmer, the Martins’ lawyer, perhaps sums up the situation the best:

 

I've been digging into the story of CrossFit Kids since last November. Everything I've seen tells me that Jeff and Mikki spent years of their lives dedicating themselves to developing CrossFit Kids from the ground up based on their handshake agreement with Greg Glassman. Although CrossFit has so far failed to produce a single document in the litigation, the emails and other documents I've seen from the Martins - including a voicemail from Mr. Glassman himself - show that CrossFit knew what Jeff and Mikki were doing, sought to benefit from it, and was grateful to them for expanding CrossFit's global empire. To anyone who doubts the Martins had an agreement with CrossFit, I would ask: If you had a family, and you had other opportunities, would you spend thousands of hours over the course of six years building a business from scratch if you didn't have the right to do so? It beggars belief.

 

What are the Martins doing now?

 

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