Downtown CrossFit Gym Owner Disputes Scandalous LA Weekly Story

Last month, we reported about a massively popular LA Weekly freelance contribution from Jonathan Maseng. In the article, Maseng wrote about how the owner and some members of the downtown branch of the CrossFit gym chain had posed for a photo with a homeless person passed out in the streets and then gloried by sharing the resulting picture (and other related snaps) on the business’s official Facebook page.

This past Monday, July 30, aforementioned CrossFit Mean Streets owner Ronnie Teasdale sent out to members a long email/Facebook message about the resulting controversy. While he admitted that the photos (since removed) were in poor taste, he tried to deflect some of the controversy by noting that the passed out individuals shown were not homeless but rather habitually drunk customers of nearby bars. People that he claims he and his staff know well:

Many of the pictures in the article are over two years old. Let me be clear about who the people in the pictures are: they are not homeless people. They are alcoholics who are regulars at the bars nearby the gym. We know their names and have interacted with them over the time the gym has been open, including getting them help when needed. I don’t condone the photos, but the implication of the article, which is that the gym was abusing homeless people or refusing to come to the aid of people in need, is false.

LA Weekly ran an article clarification in its July 20 print issue, but the focus had little to do with Teasdale’s concerns. The clarification, in its entirety, reads:

Maseng’s story reported that CrossFit’s legal counsel, Dale Saran, stated that CrossFit is not responsible for policing its affiliates. Saran objects to that characterization, and the record shows that, when asked via email whether such policing takes place, Saran failed to respond. Prior to that, however, he’d emailed, “An affiliate who does something wrong is responsible for their own actions.” Also, our headline inadvertently cast blame on the wrong CrossFit gym; as stated in the story, the gym posting photos was CrossFit Mean Streets, not CrossFit Los Angeles in Santa Monica. The Santa Monica gym was in no way involved, and we regret any impression to the contrary.

LA Weekly editor-in-chief Sarah Fenske tells FishbowlLA that managing editor Jill Stewart spoke at length with Saran and declined his request for a more extensive correction. She also says that Teasdale’s claim in his July 30 message that Maseng did not correspond directly with him is false.

“The quotes from Teasdale in our story come directly from a series of messages Jonathan exchanged with Teasdale on June 29 via Facebook,” she explains. “Following their correspondence, Jonathan heard from Teasdale’s girlfriend, and they talked on the phone. She attempted to convince him not to run the story. He declined.”

“Had Teasdale wished to speak with Jonathan over the phone, Jonathan would have been happy to talk to him, too.”

Fenske says she is also unaware of any phone or email communication sent to the LA Weekly by Teasdale prior to this week. (In his emailed announcement, he claims he tried for several weeks to contact the publication.)

The Teasdale email, in its entirely, can be read in the comments section of our previous item. Among the other topics he touches on: he, his staff and some members have and continue to sometimes tend to the area’s homeless with water, food, clothing and (when necessary) a call to the proper authorities; drunks are the antithesis of everything he personally stands for and he doesn’t believe he owes any such person any increased amount of respect; and that a colleague told Maseng before article publication that the photos were not of homeless individuals.

Many will no doubt ridicule Teasdale’s defense that because these individuals were allegedly drunk instead of homeless, it lessens the burden of Facebook shame. As a side note, if the depicted individuals are indeed all fall-down drunk, staff at nearby establishments need to be better trained on how to properly cut off patrons.

Previously on FishbowlLA:
LA Weekly Scores Home Run with Scandalous CrossFit Gym Photos