American Olympic hurdler LoLo Jones, Iowa, was trashed by a New York Times sports writer for relying more on her “sex appeal than her feet,” in an inexplicable piece that has outraged fans and media, not to mention a good many NY Times subscribers.
The Times published the mean-spirited rant by sportswriter, Jere Longman, on Saturday. He wrote that Jones, who is of African-American, French, Native-American, Norwegian descent, owes her fame to “exotic beauty” and not her accomplishments. The Times came under fire almost immediately after printing Longman’s column, according to a Fox News report.
In it, Longman compares 30-year-old Jones, a Christian who has kept her virginity despite posing for sexy photos, to former tennis pro Anna Kournikova, who some say was more popular for her looks than her tennis skills.
“They really did not do thorough research in looking into what kind of achievements Jones has,” Dennis Shaver, who began coaching Jones at Louisiana State University, told FoxNews.com by phone from London. “A likely comparison would be if Kournikova won numerous indoor titles but never won an outdoor title. I just don’t see any parallels. I don’t think there’s a comparison.
“You know, LoLo is a beautiful girl and so is Kournikova, but that’s about the only thing you can say that’s true about it,” Shaver said of Longman’s hit piece.
Jones was openly hurt by the New York Times article. Wednesday, during an appearance on NBC's "Today" show, her eyes welled with tears when asked about Longman’s unexpected put down of her.
“I think it was crazy just because it was two days before I competed, and then the fact that it was from U.S. media,” Jones said. “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 12-second race and the fact that they just tore me apart, which is heartbreaking," Jones said.
For his part, Longman was reckless in his negative assessment, but short on rationale. "Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games," Longman wrote. "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 wrote.
The push back at the Times was so intense that Times’ management had to get involved in an attempt to smooth out Longman’s wrinkle.
"In this particular case, I think the writer was particularly harsh, even unnecessarily so," said Arthur Brisbane, New York Times Public Editor.
It’s "one of the nastiest profiles" of an athlete I’ve ever seen, dialed in a Slate reporter. Sports Illustrated asked "why any sportswriter would criticize an athlete for being too open and honest," while Reuters said the composition was "grossly unfair and hypocritical."
The Fox news account suggested instead of Kournikova, “a more apt comparison might be Tim Tebow, the New York Jets quarterback whose outspokenness about his Christian beliefs has made him a polarizing figure in sports -- beloved by some fans and reviled by others.”
During a interview on the Jay Leno show in June, Jones told Leno she planned to invite Tebow to come to church with her, figuring such a date ensured "I'm not getting rejected."
Jones, failed to medal in the 2008 Games and finished fourth in the 100-meter hurdles Tuesday, 0.10 seconds behind American bronze medalist Kellie Wells and 0.23 seconds behind Australian Sally Pearson, who earned the gold.
But Jones grew up poor, so much so that her family had to live in the basement of their church at one time, according to an AP story. She offered no apologies or excuses for her Olympic results under the national spotlight.
"The Olympics are only once every four years, so you have to take advantage of all your opportunities, both to be an inspiration to people and help support your sponsors who help you," she said. "I don't regret doing any stories or being in magazines. For me, it was a chance to do things like get tips on eating healthy and working out to people, Jones said.
"It was hard work and if it made an impact on anyone in a positive way, then I wouldn't change it."