Leave Lolo alone! This Olympian's being savaged for savvy career moves
I feel bad for Lolo Jones.
She's a superb athlete. A smart businesswoman. And she’s getting stoned for it.
Jones was a favorite in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She clipped the ninth of 10 hurdles in the final and finished seventh.
But she didn't hide, and she didn’t quit.
She surrounded herself with a good team of advisers, who relentlessly promoted Jones in the media while securing endorsement deals to cover her training and living expenses.
Some in the sports world were put off by all of this, asking how Jones could constantly tout her religious beliefs while posing scantily clad for magazine photos.
Heading into the 2012 Olympics, she was 30 years old and no longer expected to win a medal. Perhaps not even make it to London.
Yet she managed to claim the third and final spot on the U.S. Olympic team in her event.
Her reward? A teardown piece in the New York Times before she even took to the track.
“Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games,” the Times wrote. “This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign.”
A Canadian academic who’s an expert on the Olympics equated Jones with Anna Kournikova, whom the Times characterized as a “former Russian tennis player whose looks received far more attention than her relatively meager skills.”
Jones then defied expectations by advancing to the final of the 100-meter hurdles, where she finished fourth, just one-tenth of a second short of the bronze medal.
Her reward? She was slammed again, this time by jealous teammates who complained that Jones was hogging all of the attention.
Enough is enough.
I think Jones was just taking full advantage of the fact that she looks good on television, catches your eye in magazines and gives engaging interviews.
Her teammates remind me of the author who says he wrote the great American novel and complains when no one reads it, even though he didn't do any publicity.
Or maybe that colleague at work who gripes that she didn't get promoted even though she didn’t raise her hand for the job.
Comparing Jones with Kournikova is no slam in my book.
Despite what the Times says, Kournikova brought more than “meager skills” to the tennis court.
She won $3.5 million in prize money, was ranked as high as 8th in the world as a singles player and reached No. 1 in doubles.
The only real rap against Kournikova is that she never won a singles tournament before back injuries ended her professional career.
But the way she built on her success as a tennis player to earn as much as $10 million a year from endorsements, according to CNNMoney, deserves admiration — not sneers.
The same goes for Jones.
She can't sprint forever, and it’s hard to imagine we’ll ever see her on the Olympic stage again.
Like Kournikova, she’s made savvy business moves to monetize the attention she’s earned to provide financial security for the rest of her life, and she's getting ripped apart for it.
It's unfair and unnecessary.
I'm sure Jones will rise above it and that she'll have a career in modeling or media after track and field. She deserves it. She's the one who made the moves to put that career in place.
Medal or not.