It's trying keeping up with the Jones
HOLD THE BACK PAGE:AMERICAN ATHLETE Lolo Jones often finds herself at the centre of, well, heated debate, her detractors long arguing that she only receives the level of media attention she does – which is quite a bit – and sponsorship because she’s a touch on the attractive side and is prepared to do just about anything for publicity.
Writing in the New York Times in August, Jere Longman let rip – in quite spectacular style, accusing Jones, a 60 and 100 metre hurdler, of engaging in “a cynical marketing strategy that is long on hyperbole and short on achievement”.
“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,” Longman wrote.
“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 . . . she has played into the persistent, demeaning notion that women are worthy as athletes only if they have sex appeal. And, too often, the news media have played right along with her.”
Jones, naturally enough, was horrified by the article, not least by the comparison with media darling Anna Kournikova, Janice Forsyth, the director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario, likening the media attention afforded the American with that given to the Russian tennis player, despite her relatively modest achievements.
“It’s really a sad commentary on the industry Lolo is in,” said Forsyth, perhaps with Jones’s 2009 nude photo shoot for ESPN the Magazine in mind.
“Limited opportunities are there for women to gain a foothold unless they sell themselves as sex kittens or virgins for sale.”
Jones took deep offence at the Kournikova business, in particular. “They didn’t even do their research, calling me the Anna Kournikova of track,” she said the day after she finished fourth in the 100 metre hurdles final at London 2012.
“I have the American record. I am the American record holder indoors, I have two world indoor titles. Just because I don’t boast about these things, I don’t think I should be ripped apart by media.”
And any celebrating by her critics of her failure to win a medal in London was, she argued, a touch harsh in light of the fact she’d had spinal cord surgery and suffered two hamstring injuries in the previous year.
She did, though, concede that maybe she’d brought some of this unwanted attention on herself, like, for example, the time she shared just a little too much personal information with her Twitter followers by revealing her pledge that she would stay a virgin until marriage. “Maybe I should, like, zip it,” she said.
And Twitter has, it must be said, played a not insignificant part in her difficulties.
Back in July, for example, she tweeted: “USA men’s archery lost the gold medal to Italy but that’s ok, we are Americans . . . When’s da Gun shooting competition”.
Harmless? Well, it might have been, entirely, except it came days after the Aurora, Colorado shootings when a gunman murdered 12 and wounded 57.
Jones, then, had a whole heap of explaining and apologising to do when the unfortunate timing of her tweet was pointed out to her. Well, she almost apologised: “sorry u guys only think of violence but I think of all the hunting I do w southerners in da south. Its impressive.”
And this week? A chap by the name of Eric LeGrand challenged her on Twitter to a race.
“Get checked for a concussion,” she replied, “Clearly, u’ve been hit in the head cos you arnt beating a track athlete.”
LeGrand is a former NFL player who was paralysed from the neck down after sustaining a spine injury in 2010 when playing for Rutgers, and is now a quadriplegic.
“Great, I’m, gonna get murdered for that tweet,” she replied on being informed of LeGrand’s story.
And was, though mercifully not literally.
She’s hard not to like, but Lolo Jones can, on occasion, not help herself a great deal.