The New York Times ripped Lolo Jones apart in a startlingly brutal article by Jere Longman this morning.The article basically argues that Jones is a fame-seeking fraud who exploits her good looks, virginity, and inspirational rags-to-riches story for unwarranted media attention. Here’s the angriest paragraph:
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.
Longman goes on to argue that Jones is exacerbating the notion that “women are worthy as athletes only if they have sex appeal.”
He also implies that Jones is a hypocrite for maintaining her virginity while also posing nude for ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue in 2009.
Here’s our biggest issue with the argument: It’s not Lolo Jones’ fault that she’s an interesting and complicated person.
She’s is part “vixen, virgin, and victim,” and that’s what makes her compelling.
Longman is angry about the way Lolo Jones is covered by the media. But instead of blaming that on the media itself, he blames it on Lolo for giving the media a juicy story. Jones wouldn’t be a big story if she wasn’t so compelling, Longman argues, so all this media attention is her fault for being overly compelling.
In one of the most ridiculous passages, Longman goes so far as to imply that Lolo talking about her rough childhood is actually just a way for her to grab headlines:
Yet [former Olympic champion Dawn] Harper acknowledged being startled by the extent to which Jones has revealed details about her own dissolute childhood in Des Moines. Her father spent time in prison. Her family lived for a period in a Salvation Army basement. She had a brief and desperate career as a child shoplifter.
“I’ve had family issues as well, but I’m not willing to say all of them just so it can be in the papers,” Harper said. “I don’t want that for myself or my family.”
Longman is angry that Lolo Jones tells reporters facts about her amazing life, because those facts are too interesting and reporters will write about them. And reporters shouldn’t write about them because Lolo Jones is only the 13th best hurdler in the world. And this is all Lolo’s fault for being so interesting and making people write about her even though she’s not as good of a hurdler as she used to be. That’s the argument.
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