CrossFit Kids: Divorce and Custody
If you believed in an organization so strongly that you would stand up to defend it against your own friends and family, would you also then assume that organization would stand up for you? According to Jeff and Mikki Martin, founders of CrossFit Kids, if the organization in question is CrossFit, Inc., then such an assumption would be wrong.
While CrossFit, Inc. has had public legal battles for years, the Martins never imagined the sights would be set on them. They were the godparents of Greg and Lauren Glassman’s children. In addition to running one of most well known CrossFit affiliates out of their gym, Brand X, they were well-respected as the founders of CrossFit Kids. But that business, born from a simple handshake agreement in 2004, would turn into a life-consuming lawsuit and have them see CrossFit and the people behind it in a whole new light.
“It’s almost as if they didn’t know us,” said CrossFit Kids co-founder Mikki Martin. “We started as a self defense studio. We started as: people shouldn’t be treated badly, you should fight for yourself, and you don’t allow people to do bad things to you… I don’t know what they thought. I think they thought we’d be scared and roll over. And that’s not us.”
To understand what happened, we need to take a look at some CrossFit history.
- 2004 - Jeff Martin discovered CrossFit and took his first Level I certification. He and Mikki integrated CrossFit into their martial arts kids program at the request of Greg Glassman and Lauren (Glassman) Jenai. The Martins were subsequently invited to the CrossFit course in Boulder, Colorado. There, Greg Glassman asked the Martins to start CrossFit Kids and they agreed. Greg encouraged them to post workouts on their website and they began doing so that December. Glassman then encouraged the Martins to create a turnkey program for affiliates wanting a kids program, including lesson plans, magazine, and a certification course. The Martins began building CrossFit Kids and Glassman continued to emphasize that the endeavor belonged to the Martins, stating, “It’s yours for a hundred years.”
- 2007 - The Martins began creation of the first CrossFit Kids certification course.
- 2008 - The Martins launched the certification courses. Glassman changed the wording he used to say that he “licensed the name” to the Martins for one hundred years. He encouraged the Martins to create affiliates through CrossFit Kids.
- 2010 - Glassman asked the Martins and CrossFit Kids to come “under the umbrella” of CrossFit, Inc. In response to the Martins’ concerns, he stated again that CrossFit Kids belonged to them. By this time, the Martins were training certification teams and teaching CrossFit Kids courses worldwide. This was the first profitable year for CrossFit Kids, contrary to the statements by CrossFit headquarters (CFHQ) that the Martins needed their financial assistance. Glassman asked the Martins to discontinue the CrossFit Kids affiliation process so affiliations could go through CFHQ. In return, they were promised profit sharing - $500 for each CrossFit affiliate running a CrossFit Kids program and 2% of all sponsorship and advertising revenue. The Martins agreed, but the details of their new compensation were never actualized due to Glassman becoming increasingly distant. The Martins believed the lack of communication was due to the legal issues between Glassman and Lauren Jenai and didn’t press the matter, despite taking a huge cut in income.
- 2011 - CFHQ was no longer scheduling as many CrossFit Kids courses or with enough lead-time for the courses to be marketed, so the Martins’ income was dramatically cut. The Martins were not given the ability to schedule additional courses. CFHQ billed the Martins for all expenses associated with the courses and only paid the agreed-upon percentage of profit after expenses. But in fact, the Martins had signed the agreement under duress and no details regarding the determination of profit had been laid out, so the billing of expenses and small nature of their payments came as a surprise. The Martins had been told they could go to Glassman with any concerns, but they were continually denied access to him. As the situation wore on, the Martins became in danger of losing their home. Glassman paid them a one-time bonus and put them on a salary with a three-year agreement. CFHQ agreed to come up with a more comprehensive contract once the courses were back on track. Throughout this, the Martins expressed that their income should be connected to the CrossFit Kids courses as it was their creation.
- 2014 - The three-year date passed on the Martins’ contract and no renegotiation was brought up by CFHQ. The Martins felt promises were made that were never actuated and pressed the matter.
In 2007, Glassman suggested to the Martins that CrossFit Kids be linked on the main CrossFit website. The Martins believe the following voicemail from Glassman offers clear evidence that CrossFit Kids belonged to them:
The Beginning of the End of CrossFit Kids
In early 2014, CFHQ asked the Martins to hand over their CrossFit Kids email accounts. These were the personal accounts created by the Martins ten years earlier. When the Martins declined to surrender their email accounts and restated that they believed they had the rights to the CrossFit Kids name, a six-month long negotiation ensued. During that time, the Martins’ ownership of CrossFit Kids and their loyalty to CrossFit itself fell under repeated question.
Learn why every affiliate should care about this lawsuit.