Lolo Jones is attractive. She's an Olympic athlete. She's a celebrity. She's a virgin. As of today, she's now the fourth fastest 100 meter women's hurdler out of over 3 billion women that populate planet earth.
But somewhere along the way Lolo Jones stopped being a person or an athlete and started being a story. A symbol. A label. A debate topic. She was overrated. Overhyped. Overexposed.
Heading into the London Olympics, Lolo Jones only stood behind Michael Phelps as the most famous American Olympic athlete. It was easy to see why. She was different. Lolo Jones was a sex symbol who never had sex. She was a would be gold medalist that never medaled. She had a backstory that NBC primetime could only dream of crafting. And she was able to take in all the pressure, all the hype, all the attention with a smile on her face.
But as the old adage goes, we love nothing more than building people up and subsequently tearing them down. Ever since she got to London, Lolo Jones has been chipped away at from all angles.
First there was a mini controversy that arose after a shooting tweet Jones sent was taken out of context. Then came a hit piece from the New York Times that criticized Jones for having the downright nerve to be good-looking and a good athlete and marketable. How dare she! Jere Longman delivered a sledgehammer that featured an expert comparing Lolo Jones to Anna Kournikova and more harsh words:
"Still, Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign. Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be — vixen, virgin, victim — to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses."
Do you think any American male athlete would have to deal with this hot garbage? Sad and cynical? Jen Engel at Fox has a well spoken article on the hypocritical nonsense facing female athletes at the London Olympics. Everything from Gabby Douglas' hair to Serena Williams' dancing to the empty shouts of progress now that each nation has a token female athlete has been a topic of conversation these Olympics. Lolo Jones has been front and center of this storm.
Is she too attractive, too popular for her own good? Should she not have been engaging with fans on Twitter or be as funny or as marketable? Should she have turned down the ESPN cover and the appearance on Leno because God forbid Jere Longman didn't give her permission first? What about her opening up about her story and then having the label "virgin hurdler" being used for mockery and derision and placed upon her like a scarlet letter in a testosterone charged sex obsessed world? What about the tweets like this one in the wake of her fourth place finish at the Olympics that take joy in her not getting some on the podium or in the Olympic Village.
But it wasn't just randoms on Twitter quick to revel in Lolo Jones' shortcomings, even her own American teammates spoke out against her. After a silver and bronze in the same event, Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells lashed out against Jones' popularity in an interview with Michelle Beadle. While one can empathize with Harper and Wells being more successful on the track and less successful off the track, it's hard to listen to them take subtle digs at Lolo Jones and not get the sense that they delight in kicking her when she's down.
All of the pressure, hype, and criticism facing Lolo Jones came out on the Today Show this morning when she broke down in tears in an interview with Savannah Guthrie...
So now with her Olympic career likely over, it's a mystery what happens next to Lolo Jones. Does she have any more endorsement deals? Any more media appearances? Does she fade away into relative anonymity? Who knows at this point, but I hope Lolo Jones doesn't move out of the spotlight completely. In spite of what some corners of the media have said, the sports world desperately needs more people like Lolo Jones.
We are always crying out for athletes to be more real and more authentic. Athletes that are willing to joke and speak openly about their virginity. Athletes that don't have to hide who they really are. We're crying out for athletes to stop hiding behind agents and well-crafted PR statements. We're crying out for athletes that aren't cookie cutters or filling police blotters. We got that with Lolo Jones.
But when those athletes finally come along, we can't wait to try to find something wrong with them, just like we did with Lolo Jones. We can't wait to pounce when they don't match exactly what we want or expect from them. But Lolo Jones doesn't need a medal or the New York Times or anyone to validate who she is as a person or an athlete.
Maybe it's not Lolo Jones that's sad and cynical. Maybe it's us.
Get your facts right. She is nowhere close to the 4th fastest 100m hurdler. Try 21st. Her 4th place time was her personal best. Which in short means, she didn't stand a chance. Also, regarding Harper and Wells, how can one "lash out" with "subtle digs"? Those are big words that cancel each other out. Someone needs to review their Strunk and White.
I saw the Wells / Harper interview with Beadle. There was no drama except imagined. No "tension you could cut with a knife" as Beadle states. Pure conjecture. Harper told the truth. The press chose to still highlight Jones instead of a Gold medal winner. Harper never indicted Jones but instead the media. Who wouldn't be upset in those circumstances. The fact she said so make her far more straight up and real than a woman who plays the virgin / Christian card then trades in on her sexuality. That's a brazen opportunist in any language.
@TimothyNaylor I couldn't agree more. Track athlete's don't get paid a ton, but endorsements will get you some much needed $$$. The Olympics are the Super Bowl, BCS Championship Game, World Series, World Cup...etc...of Track and Field. She has won races, yes. However, not the BIG one...Lolo participates in one race. One. Uno, and she didn't win it. She didn't even get a podium spot...so why are we still fascinated with her?? This is what people need to ask themselves. Instead Harper is being made out to be a bad guy or gal, when all she did was call out the Network.
@TimothyNaylor What? Did Lolo turn you down? Feel jilted? The rest of the world seems to think Harper and her sister were MUCH less than gracious towards Lolo. I hope Lolo gets great sponsors, and wins the 2016 Gold. BUY LOLO!
We all know Lolo was 2 hurdles from gold in 2008. Medals aside, Lolo is sweet, and Harper and Wells are cold and cruel teammates. The market will decide which athlete gets the best endorsements. Buy Lolo. Never buy "brand X skank."
Lolo Jones enjoyed the spotlight, now it's too hot for her?
Maybe if she was an athlete instead of a model. Any maybe if her male admirers appreciated sports instead of looking for some white. blonde chick to drool over.
The NYT called it as it is and it burns you up don't it? Lolo has failed in TWO Olympics now, brought home no hardware and yet you want to believe in her. Because she's such a winner, right?
@KenConrad Lolo Jones isn't white or Blonde idiot.Interestingly enough the Woman who did win, Sally Pearson, is both White and Blonde. And not too bad looking either.
@KenConradShe's not white... you sound like you've been turn down by a white chick... and what does race have to do with it? Just because she doesn't look like a monkey on steroids she's not an athlete.
@KenConrad Wow dude... really??
Oh boo hoo. She's the female Tim Tebow. If she doesn't want the extra scrutiny, then don't go out of your way to talk about your virginity. Period. She's getting all the backlash she deserves.
And why shouldn't she? She's been billed as the next great American female athlete and has ZERO medals. Why shouldn't she be subject to criticism? Sorry, Lolo, but if you're going to step on the world stage, and FAIL, then expect to be 'ripped to shreds', and deservedly so.
@gofastmazda2008 And she only runs one event, its not like she's a triathlete. Check her resume...her "track record" is suspect. Don't wikipedia it either that is biased and doesn't speak to her many loses.
@gofastmazda2008Ripped to shreds by who? A beer league superstar like.......you??
@gofastmazda2008 Man, tough crowd.
I don't see how anyone can watch that video and at least not empathize with the woman. Yes, the US media should be able to criticize it's Olympic athletes, but Jones makes good points about her accomplishments and the unfairness of being critiqued by people who don't understand what she's accomplished.
This is a good example of how absurd the whole focus on the Olympics is by some media outlets. This woman is a two time World Champion. Let's not call her a failure because she came up short in the Olympics. The Olympics are obviously very important, but let's not treat them like the ONLY thing that matters in non-mainstream sport.
While I sympathize with Wells and Harper, isn't it time to grow up? You medaled in the Olympics, your dream. Where's the problem?
The hatchet job in the Times just puts a spotlight on how irrelevant old world media has become. I have zero interest in the Olympics due to the over hyping and the streak of meanness I see in the silly nationalism on the part of US fans and US media. Here is what I am taking away from this Olympics:Lolo Jones. Hope she cashes in and to paraphrase the wisdom of Lebron James "Tomorrow she'll still be Lolo Jones and beautiful and famous and we'll still be us and Longman of the Times will still be striving for 1% of the success in his field as Lolo Jones has already achieved in hers.
Well done, but it is worth remembering that Lolo-backlash had been building in track circles long, long before the NYT chose to report about it. Lolo had a chance, slim though it was, to overcome the Lolo-backlash by actually performing on the field of play, i.e., medalling. She didn't. So now, quite understandably, she is trying to kick-start a backlash to the Lolo-backlash by demonizing the NYT, which was simply reporting about the well-known Lolo-backlash, and by implying that her self-reported abstinence is being held against her, all in a effort to change the debate and make her look like a victim. It's really too bad. She is a wonderfuly talented--and photogenic--athlete. Playing the victim card, however, looks like crass opportunism. "It's all about me." Still.
@EugeneCoug Sounds like someone that is merely immature and jealous... still #4 in the World... is better than almost everyone on these blogs.
Good piece, but as far as an American male athlete having to deal with this, a lot of it--to me-- is reminiscent of the treatment Bode Miller got awhile back.
This had been simmering since 2008 when her teammates, one won the Gold, were pushed to the background. It was also simmering during the Trials. NBC hyped her and bypassed the better athletes.
Which is the same thing the chump who wrote this article did. Lolo is overrated, like tebow and other male athletes who the author depserately tried to ignore since he wants to prop up some sexism counter-narrative.
Heck, he doesn't have anything else to defend her with.
Any port in a storm.