Olympian Lolo Jones, Bobsled Federation Respond to Paycheck Backlash

Jun 19, 2013 8:13am

American Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones said she wanted to show how hard bobsled athletes work when she posted a six-second clip about her paycheck on social video sharing site Vine.

In the video, Jones, 30, shows her paycheck of $741.84 from her season with the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, dated June 10. She says in the Vine video, “Seven months with bobsled season, the whole season. That’s it?”

“I don’t want to make anyone mad, and I’ve always wanted to help out the bobsled athletes. Some of them have debt because they’ve given their life to the sport,” Jones said in a statement after critics said that she was receiving more than other bobsled athletes.

In the video, she spoke, apparently in jest, into a phone saying, “I’m going to be a little late on my rent.”

While Jones had the support of several sponsors, including McDonald’s and Red Bull, she didn’t receive a medal at the Summer Olympics in London last year but she may be eligible to compete at the next winter Olympic games next year in Sochi, Russia.

In defending her video, Jones said she and her bobsled partner “had to raise money for the bobsled to be funded just to finish the season, because only two of the three 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!”

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Amanda Bird, marketing and communications director with the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, clarified what the check encompassed:  prize money provided by the international federation and a sponsor, “strictly based on her performances this season.”
“Lolo did a good job in the races she competed in, but she didn’t compete in every race,” Bird said. “The gold medal at World Championships was in a team event, which wasn’t a money race.”

Bird explained that Jones was a rookie last season, so she didn’t qualify for a monthly stipend, “but she displayed a wealth of talent in her first season and shows promise for the future.”

The federation’s selection procedures begin in August, when it will reevaluate which athletes receive a salary based on their performances. Jones has a chance to qualify for the undisclosed monthly stipend if she can finish as one of the top women’s push athletes, Bird said.

American Bobsledder and Olympic gold medalist Steven Holcomb told USA Today, “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. 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 athletes? She slapped pretty much every athlete in the U.S. federation in the face.”

Bird said the federation “knew Lolo’s video was intended to be fun, but we also recognized that it might be a sensitive topic for many of our athletes.”

“Our athletes have so much pride in representing their country while competing in a sport they love, and they really do dedicate every second, minute and hour for just the chance to win an Olympic medal.  It’s incredibly honorable.”

Bird’s words were echoed in Jones’ statement.

“The bottom line is that all Olympic athletes dedicate their lives to their sports and do not all receive lucrative paychecks like athletes in mainstream professional sports,” Jones said in her statement. “So hopefully this will make people appreciate just how hard Olympians work, often just for the love of the sport.”

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(Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

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