Cancel Culture Is Coming For Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
In the wake of the civil unrest that has impacted much of the United States, the sports and fitness industries are being forced to reconcile several questionable decisions throughout the years. One interesting development is the push for organizations to distance themselves from personalities that are now deemed “problematic.” The lucrative CrossFit industry went through this issue earlier this month. Professional wrestling is facing a similar pattern right this moment. There is a continued push for the same to happen in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and that developing story is intriguing to watch.
Cancel culture is a topic that deserves its own breakdown. While not new, there is a variety of examples in which an individual’s statement leads to them having to issue an apology while potentially losing their job or other opportunities. We are not here to talk about whether cancel culture needs to go away. Instead, let us talk about its current impact on sports, fitness, and entertainment, plus whether Brazilian Jiu Jitsu should face the same pressure.
For reference, look at what happened in CrossFit when former CEO Greg Glassman posted an offensive tweet about George Floyd that many deemed overtly racist. From there, his continued transgressions led to many of the most popular athletes to denounce the brand, gyms de-affiliated, then the biggest hit when Reebok announced an end to its partnership with CrossFit. Now the entire industry is shaken up in a way few expected, but one that many states was a necessary change.
Professional wrestling is going through a similar situation. The trending #SpeakingOut movement follows the accounts of many women, and a few men, as they share their stories of sexual assault, hazing and other forms of abuse. This movement has forced small independent organizations, all the way up to the biggest promotions in WWE and AEW to act against many individuals on their roster. In many ways it is a cleaning out moment for professional wrestling as these individuals should not have a space in the industry.
How do these two examples relate to what is going on in BJJ? Well, on a smaller scale there is a growing call for problematic individuals to be forced out of the martial art. Two of the biggest names in the industry, Gordon Ryan, and Renzo Gracie, have both become the focal points of campaigns looking to inform the public about disturbing trends in their past actions and words. Behaviors that often do not align with the talking points used to elevate the practice of martial arts. Famed instructor Ricardo el la Riva announced that his academy will no longer have co-ed classes, effectively expelling women from practicing. This comes months after he was accused of sexual assault by multiple-time world champion Claudia do Val. These campaigns highlight the past words and actions of those involved to shine a light on examples of racism, misogyny, fascism, sexual assault and more that are a growing trend within the martial arts world.
The problem with these situations is that the martial arts industry is filled with practitioners that look up to these famed competitors and icons. Instead of pushing these individuals to be better, it is become common place to see a circling of the wagons to defend. The media outlets that cover the industry fail to question these problematic instances. Promotions still look to book these competitors as frequently as possible and the wait list for seminars continues to grow. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is such a niche sport that it is difficult to weed out the problematic individuals with so much influence.
While there is an understandable call to question the continued rise of cancel culture, that does not mean the best bet is to blindly defend any and everyone accused. The sports, fitness and entertainment industries are seeing a growing call for a distancing from those that do not have the greatest record living up to the ideals they are supposed to embody. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not immune from going through a similar chance. In many ways, it is overdue.