Olivia Dunne is an elite level gymnast at LSU. In addition to being an extremely skilled athlete, she’s also amassed 6.2 million TikTok followers and 2.3 million IG followers, and has secured sizable brand sponsorships.
The New York Times recently published a piece titled “New Endorsements for College Athletes Resurface an Old Concern: Sex Sells” that discusses the implications of the new rules for NCAA athletes that allows them to sign name, image and likeness (NIL) deals and rake in endorsement money. The piece, however, makes the argument that because several of the female athletes raking in the highest endorsement dollars fit traditional standards of beauty, Dunne being one of them, women feel pressured into leaning on their sexuality as opposed to their athletic achievements.
“Seven figures,” she said of her income from social media and major company endorsements such as Vuori and American Eagle Outfitters. “That is something I’m proud of. Especially since I’m a woman in college sports.”
Dunne was not thrilled about the perception that her branding was in any way “regressive.”
The 20-year-old junior saw the piece, which critics have deemed sexist, go viral and clapped back with her own IG story. She posted a pic of herself in a leotard from the photo shoot for the article, tagged the publication and wrote “Is this too much?”
As of Thursday afternoon, the article had 652 comments that echoed a similar sentiment as a tweet by Emily Shiroff, noting that the writer broke journalistic ethics and failed to mention Dunne is an “elite college athlete.” They also said the writer pitted women against each other in an article that would never have been pitched, let alone written, if it were about a male.
A few readers, however, used their 1,500-character limit to applaud Dunne for doing what anyone would, taking the opportunity to make a bit more money in an industry that already works against women. “What’s the fuss?” asked people who recognized that Dunne is not breaking any rules.
“When I was a student-athlete in a very liberal and ‘progressive’ setting, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to be overly feminine for fear of not seeming like a serious athlete,” someone wrote. “Good for these girls who embrace being stereotypically feminine and attractive and excel at their sport.”
Another chimed in to celebrate all the young, talented women who dedicate their lives to the sports they play in college. “Less than 1 percent of high school athletes obtain college athletic scholarships and earn a spot on a D1 team. This coveted spot comes at a huge cost to the individual athletes (and their families). Time and events lost that they will never get back, missing holidays, weekends, nights out with friends, proms, etc., because of practice, games or tournaments,” the post said. “This takes grit. And if on top of this gift of nature, i.e. being superstar athletes, they are also pretty and chose to use that gift of nature as well. Why not? The world loves pretty people and there are few things more beautiful than youth itself. Congratulations to all the amazing female athletes in this article.”