Stop asking black track athletes about Lolo Jones
Team USA Olympic track and field star Dawn Harper ran a 12.37 in the 100-meter hurdles final, earning an Olympic silver medal. Her teammate, Kellie Wells finished just behind, winning the bronze. With all the success these ladies achieved, is it really appropriate for the media to ask them about Lolo Jones immediately following their race?
Harper took home the gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and was one of this year’s favorites even after overcoming a knee surgery in 2010 that could have potentially ended her career. And yet, her backstory always seems to be constantly overshadowed by fellow American hurdler, Jones. Since hitting a hurdle in the ’08 Olympics, Jones has been a conversation piece. She has marketed herself well, doing several risque magazine covers, revealing a challenging childhood, and sharing on HBO that she plans to remain a virgin until marriage. Jones became quite the media sensation over the past year, leading up to the Olympics, but she eventually received criticism about the amount of publicity she had garnered.
Meanwhile, in nearly every interview Harper did, reporters brought up Jones. Prior to the Olympics, Harper sat down with KNBC-TV and when asked about Jones, she acknowledged that the lack of press she receives does bother her, though she added that she felt her teammate to be a “great competitor.”
Sports Illustraded’s Tim Layden made the point:
She [Dawn Harper] would talk openly about this process if asked, and about her resentment of the Lolo publicity machine, but not without prompting. Post-race she was asked about it. “You know,” she said, “My PR agent tells me ‘Don’t really answer that question.’ But I want to be real with my fans. I feel like I’ve put so much out there, sacrificed so much, and I feel like my life and my story have just been trampled on over the last four years.”
Following the women’s 100-meter final, Harper and Wells sat down with NBC Sports’ Michelle Beadle. The Olympic medalists spoke about the race, and the topic of Lolo Jones rose again. Harper expressed that it seemed the media was pushing their story aside for the media “favorite,” and it hurt her feelings. This interview received some Twitter backlash, to which Harper and Wells both responded.
And Kellie Wells added in a tweet: “never was there hate thrown towards anyone. The media can spin it. However, I know my heart and so does God. I congratulated all that ran.”
With so many USA women bringing home medals in the 2012 Games (the latest being Allyson Felix, who won gold in the 200 meters Wednesday), it’s time the media gave each of these athletes their due. They shouldn’t have to answer for the media favorite whose long-predicted attainment of medals never materialized.
Follow Carrie Healey on Twitter @CarrieHeals.