7:30am August 11, 2012

Lolo Jones Catfight: For Olympic Endorsements Looks Matter


As the 2012 Olympics draw to a close, attention is being focused on which of the shining stars from the London games will get the most endorsements.

No doubt those that play in America’s most watched and covered sports on television, gymnastics, swimming, track and field, beach volleyball, diving and women’s soccer stand a chance at winning top deals. Not all athletes who medal are guaranteed lucrative endorsement deals though certainly that helps.

Also, as with the recent controversy regarding hurdles athlete Lolo Jones, you don’t even have to live up to the hype and medal to land a coveted deal.  So said a New York Times article written Tuesday which LoLo herself responded to on the  Today show Wednesday morning.

“I have the American record. I am the American record holder indoors, I have two world indoor titles.” She added, “They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds. I just thought that that was crazy because I worked six days a week, every day, for four years for a twelve-second race and the fact that they just tore me apart, which is heartbreaking.”

But the Times isn’t the only one. Fellow U.S. Track and Field runners Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells, who won silver and bronze respectively, in the women’s 100 meter hurdles Tuesday night expressed frustration that they aren’t getting enough media attention to their win over Jones.

Speaking with Wells about having a good story they felt worthy of coverage, Harper expressed the sentiments on behalf of both, seemingly.

“Because their favorite didn’t win all of sudden it’s just like, ‘Were going to push your story aside and still going to push this one,’” Harper told NBC sports. “That hurt. It did. It hurt my feelings.”

In a piece on the Multicultural Cooking Channel Network, editor in chief Crystal Johnson, suggested that perhaps Harper and Wells’ complexion and appearance played a hand in their not getting media attention.

“What they didn’t have was the look,” Johnson wrote. “You know, that “Miss America-Vanessa Williams” look.”

Unfortunately, if Johnson is correct, then the double standard in sports spill over to endorsement because certainly not as much focus is placed on male athletes. As with the case of swimmer Michael Phelps, the accomplishments are enough to net a deal even though he isn’t necessarily the most attractive U.S. Swimmer on the team.  Recent ruckus about all-around gold medalist and team medalist Gabby Douglas’ hair is further proof that for women, sometimes their looks and appearance matter first, in the eyes of some.

A St. Louis Federal Reserve study showed that people who are attractive earn 5% more than their average looking co-workers, and therefore the key to netting lucrative athletic endorsement deals may not rest solely on  your athletic skills and accomplishments, but on your looks as well.

Isn’t that what other tennis stars often accused Anna Kournakova of, who also had never won a major tennis tournament but has racked up millions in endorsement deals?

About the Author

Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt represents small, women, and minority owned business and technology companies at The Ghatt Law Group LLC, the nations’ first communications law firm owned by women and minorities. She's won landmark cases on behalf of her clients which include national civil rights and public interest organizations. In addition to actively authoring several blogs, being a radio show host and sitting on the boards of three non-profits, she is a tech junkie who has been developing online web content since the very early years of the Internet, 1991 to be precise! Follow her on Twitter at @Jenebaspeaks, on her blog, Jenebaspeaks, which covers the intersection of politics and technology or on her Politics of Raising Children blog at The Washington Times Communities section. The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and have complete editorial independence from any Politic365 partners, sponsors, or advertisers. For additional information about Politic365, please visit http://politic365.com/about/.



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  1. Kent

    Stop it with the sexism angle. This is a color issue. Don't get stuck on stupid.

    • MaggieR

      Okay, with the name calling. I think the author DID mention color and I, for one, do not see the sexism angle you speak of…finally, why can't it be both? Sexism and Colorism at the same time? Are you that one linear? Oh boy!

  2. giant.fan

    The one who deserves the endorsementt contracts, the most beautiful Olympian, is Ms. Richards-Ross.

  3. Carl

    True that color may have played a role in this. However both Kellie Wells and Dawn Harper had the responsibility not to be nasty to a fellow teammate who never did anything in public to them. Kellie Wells in particular was craving or is craving media attention beyond the Olympics ( voluntary mag photos and publishing new personal revelations that oddly coincide with Lolo's personal involuntary exposure). And when asked about her feelings and "cat fights" with Lolo specifically, Wells could've been the bigger individual by saying.."no" this isn't about cat fights or Lolo it's about the media. Instead the answer she gave was jealous and bitter. Not vague as Kellie and her supporters would like it to appear.

    Dawn on the other hand , who's a previous gold medal winner did express frustrations beyond jealousy. But unortunately, she capped it off with the Boom comment, and she also gave a judgmental statement directly about Lolo in the New York Times scathing article on Lolo : “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.”

    If they'd been a little less juvenile in their reaction and voiced their frustrations with the media, they may have gotten better PR like Gabby Douglas.

    • Theo

      You're right, but Gabby Douglas won a Gold. I saw the pictures of Kellie and wondered how someone could proclaim sexual abuse and publish images like these unless they're competing for attention. Hope that's not the case, but it would appear that way. Dawn and Kellie let the bully-girl syndrome surface in this interview. It was disgraceful for Olympians of this standing to go ratchet on a fellow Olympian.

  4. Wm_Tucker

    This (non) controversy isn't about sexism, 'colorism'(?), or even Olympic endorsements. This is about hype. Lolo Jones was marketed to the public and was a willing participant. But she didn't perform anywhere close to expectations sponsors created as her image. It's only natural for track & field's fans and some competitors to express resentment and/or disappointment toward what they perceive as a bill of goods.

    Hopefully, Mses. Harper, Wells and the other athletes will display the dignity and grace of true elite athletes by moving past the triviality of 'winning' frivolous popularity contests. Unlike Jones, they'll now collect endorsements worthy of their achievements.

    • MaggieR

      I highly doubt they will because whether you want to admit it or not, MARKETERS want to sell a look that is comfortable and preferable to mainstream and their look is NOT IT. You can choose to accept it or reject it.

      And it IS about sexism because this is NOT an issue among men! Point Blank! Women are judged by different standards and when people decide who to highlight, they do in fact take into account the attractiveness level of women moreso than men. If that was not the case, note all the unattractive rappers and singers that do very well. Overweight women and unattractive ones do NOT succeed or excel.

      That is a reality. Accept it or not!

  5. EricD

    I want to say to many of the above comments whining about color and gender. Get over it and grow up. Waaaa…. life isn't fair! Leave it on the grade school playground where it belongs. So Jones has some savvy and markets what she has, parlaying her physical beauty and athleticism into cash. What a bunch of self-righteous hyprocricy. What do you expect her to do, turn down deals, endorsements and yes, money – the root of all evil, so she can support her full time training flipping burgers? Life is hard, but its a lot harder if you're stupid. Lolo, isn't stupid.

  6. j00jo

    isn't racism for illiterate? if anyone went to school, he definitely can understand the color it's all about the melanin.it says America is the first country in the word and I do believe it as well however, show me more. is's been a while we could see the valor of a man doesn't depend of his color, beauty and clothes. Stop it please!!! I'm black and ugly may be for certain but God give me a lot of skills even better than those things. see people like human being and the world will be better. God blessyou

  7. orvillelloyddouglas

    I agree with Kent this is more than just sexism this is also about racism. Look at Usain Bolt he's unattractive BUT he's still a man. The black male athletes can get endorsements regardless of whether they are ugly or attractive they just have to be talented. However, black women are treated differently by the black and white media. The black media is also to blame because the black press has an obsession with mixed race woman. A woman has to be mixed race to get the spotlight by the black press or light skinned or brown skinned. Darker skinned black women like Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells don't get their shine because they are considered not white enough for the black or white media.

  8. [...] these faces belong on cereal boxes? Deodorant spots? Underwear ads?  We all know that looks matter, but if Michael Phelps can do a pseudo-sexy spot for Louis Vuitton, all bets are [...]

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