After finishing fourth in the women's 110-meter hurdles, Lolo Jones lashed out at the media, saying that the negative coverage she'd received was "crazy."
Jones, who was leading the race at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games when she clipped the ninth hurdle and failed to medal, finished Aug. 7 behind Sally Pearson of Australia and American teammates Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells.
Jones, who was in tears as she spoke about her "heartbreaking" fourth place finish and a critical New York Times article, shared her feelings on TODAY on Aug. 8.
"I think it was crazy, just because it was two days before I competed and the fact that it was from a U.S. media. They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds," Jones said on TODAY. "I just thought that was crazy because, I worked six days a week, every day for four years for a 12-second race. And the fact that they tore me apart was just heartbreaking."
The article, which called attention to Jones' seeming lack of international success, compared her to the Anna Kournikova of track and field. Jones' is only popular for her beauty and off-track antics, the article said.
"Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games," Jeré Longman wrote for The New York Times. "This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign."
Perhaps Longman's words were a bit harsh, and maybe they didn't come at the right time for the hurdler. But the article likely did come at the right time for Longman, who's job isn't to support and help Jones reach the medal stand. Instead, the reporter's job is to share the news and foster conversation. The New York Times has certainly provoked discussion, even drawing comment from Jones herself.
Besides, while the article focused on Jones and used her as an example, I don't think the overreaching idea was to paint Jones as a poor athlete. Instead, I read the article as if the author was trying to illustrate the difference between the popularity of male and female athletes. For example, Longman pointed out that, leading into the Games, swimmer Ryan Lochte was lauded for his accomplishments, while Harper, the 2008 110-meter hurdles Olympic champion, was a relative unknown with few athletic endorsements.
"Victory alone is often not enough for women," Longman wrote, and so Jones had to find another way to make herself marketable, regardless of her performance, Longman argued.
And who can really blame her for that? Who among us doesn't want to earn a living doing something we love?
Could Longman have found a nicer way to share the idea? Certainly, but then the story wouldn't be nearly as controversial as it is today, and we wouldn't be talking about Jones or double-standards in sport.
Regardless of the intent of the piece, Jones had her own harsh words for The New York Times and every other media outlet that had been critical of her leading up to the Games. Jones, who reminded viewers that she is the indoor American record holder, said her humility is part of the reason that she's been lambasted in the press.
"I am the American record holder indoors, I have two world indoor titles, and just because I don't boast about these things, I don't think I should be ripped apart by the media," Jones said on TODAY. "And so I laid it out there, fought hard for my country, and I just think it's a shame that I have to deal with so much backlash when I'm already so brokenhearted as it is."
Sandra Johnson is a longtime Olympic fan. While working for the United States Olympic Committee and living in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Johnson had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46.
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