Editorial: GRAY MATTERS: Lolo Takes Shine From Harper & Wells
(WASHINGTON DC - August 10, 2012) - After defending 100 meter hurdle champion Dawn Harper and Hampton grad Kellie Wells took silver and bronze in the London Olympics, the face of the race took to twitter. Lolo Jones again finished the games without a medal and told her legion of followers she was “heartbroken”.
Therein lies the problem. Jones was caught up in the attention and let distractions disrupt her routine. Thus, she didn’t handle the moment and has nobody else to blame but herself for what happened on the Olympic track. As much as she wants to blame the New York Times for a column that framed her in the proper context, she should have taken the approach of Alyson Felix and locked out the world until after the race.
Jones needs to be honest with herself right now and admit that she was overexposed for all the wrong reasons leading to the games. She capitalized on her Alicia Keys in track spikes looks to draw attention and endorsements. This was her shining moment and she needed to capitalize on the small window of opportunity for her marketing potential. But once in London Jones should have stopped tweeting or reading newspapers. She should have gone into a social media bunker and isolated herself so she wouldn’t have been influenced by anything.
Even in losing, NBC propped Jones on a pedestal of unworthiness. Wednesday morning after the race, Jones was able to bear her soul with Savannah Guthrie on The Today Show while Harper and Wells were banished to the NBC Sports Network with Michelle Beadle. Most of America’s medalists visited the network’s marquee program to share their story after victory but it was clear that Jones’ heartbroken cover girl story was more compelling than the champions from the event.
After the interview with Beadle the social media world went crazy citing the tension between the medalists and Jones. There was an edge that Harper and Wells brought to the NBC desk at Olympic Park with good reason.
Jones was not the only American in that final who had a compelling story of perseverance to race for gold. She had overcome living with her family in a Salvation Army basement to become a two time world indoor champion within a clipped hurdle of becoming a gold medalist.
However, Harper had battled injuries and worked three jobs to get in position to win the gold in Beijing while wearing borrowed shoes. Wells was sexually abused by her stepfather at 16 and used the sport as a means of escape. She also had to deal with the loss of her mother and the abusive father figure in a car accident that she unknowingly drove past en route to her medal.
Two real American success stories were dwarfed by the media attention surrounding Jones. There was no HBO Real Sports feature on Wells which would have been more inspiring than the case study of Jones’ virginity. Leading up to the games the least publicized American defending champion was Harper who was the quintessential after thought when it came to marketing and publicity.
Today’s media and Madison Avenue choose who are going to be stars regardless of credibility. This is both a star and color struck society which plays more to hype than substance. Jones, and her Café Au Lait skin tone, plays better to the media marketing machine than the rich milk chocolate hue of Harper and Wells. That’s why Jones remains a story without an Olympic medal.
Its time for the mainstream to embrace the new flavor.