Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Viral and toxic: Lolo Jones' Vine video about bad bobsledding paycheck

Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones, who has "switched sports" to bobsledding, posted a Vine video on Monday that seemed to be complaining -- but in a tongue-in-cheek way -- about the 741.84 check from the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. Her attempt at humor fell flat, forcing her to issue a statement Monday night, after angering many in the sport.

One statement came from Olympic gold medal bobsledder Steven Holcomb, who calmly responded to questions about bobsledder reaction. While not particularly vehement in his view, he did point out the difference between her former sport (track and field) and bobsledding, in terms of financial backing.
It wasn't taken very well. People were really kind of insulted. You just made $741, more than most athletes in the sport. So what are you complaining about?

The way it came across to a lot of the athletes here was kind of snobby because she's one of the most well-known athletes in the world and she's making pretty good money in endorsements (as a two-time Olympic hurdler). And to basically turn around and slap us in the face because you didn't make any money this year in bobsledding while taking money from other's athletes? She slapped pretty much every athlete in the U.S. federation in the face. That was the general consensus.
Holcomb won a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, when he was a member of the gold medal-winning 4-man bobsled team for the United States. That was America's first gold medal in the event since 1948.

Jones had seven sponsors during the 2012 Olympics. Beautiful as well, she received -- and continues to receive -- enormous media attention and financial backing. She failed to medal in the 100-meter hurdles; in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics, she was favored to win that same hurdle event, but on a hurdle, and finished in seventh place.

Jones currently competes as a brakeman on the U.S. national bobsled team. She won a gold medal in the mixed team event at the 2013 World Championships.

In the Vine video -- remember that Twitter's Vine allows the posting of six-second repeating videos -- Jones says to a camera:
Seven months with bobsled season. The whole season. That's it.

Then, speaking on a phone, presumably to a faux landlord, she adds,
I'm going to be a little late on my rent this month.
The camera then shows off her paycheck.

On Monday night, Jones released a statement through one of her sponsors, Red Bull.
I didn't want to offend anyone, and I've always wanted to help out my bobsled teammates. Some of them have debt because they've given their life to the sport. My partner Jazmine and I had to raise money for the bobsled to be funded just to finish the season, because only 2 of the 3 sleds are funded by the team. I can't imagine halfway through my track season having to stop and raise money to finish.

The vine of the paycheck is just showing the difference between track and bobsled, and to be honest bobsledders work more hours than track! The bottom line is that all Olympic athletes dedicate their lives to their sports and do not receive lucrative paychecks like athletes in mainstream professional sports. So hopefully this will make people appreciate just how hard Olympians work, often just for the love of the sport.
Jones was forced to defend herself on Twitter -- again, parent service to Vine. She said she posted the Vine video to bring attention to the issue.

Brock Kreitzburg, a 2006 Olympian, tweeted:
Welcome to the world of bobsledding. Try 7 years of it. I think I left poorer than when I first began. #fortheloveofsport?
To that, Jones responded:
Speaking out is the first step to change. That is how Track and field changed our sport. We demanded improvements.
Not all the tweets were critical. U.S. bobsledder Elana Meyers tweeted her thanks to Jones:
thanks for brining the issues to light! Bobsledders aren't high paid pro athletes like you see on tv
Holcomb, for one, knows the price that bobsledders pay. Holcomb was $45,000 in debt prior to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. After his gold medal, Holcomb was able to erase much of his debt, but then accumulated more.
I'm still living in the Olympic Training Center. I'm 33 years old and still living in a dorm because that's the only thing I can afford. After 16 years in the sport, I don't have a dime toward retirement.
Still, he wouldn't change a thing:
We're not here for the money. We love the sport. I love what I do. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

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