https://www.theblaze.com/news/lsus-olivia-dunne-assigned-bodyguard-after-horde-of-rowdy-boys-mobs-another-gymnastics-meet

Louisiana State University is stepping up its security to ensure that its star gymnast, Olivia Dunne, will escape future competitions unscathed.

What’s the background?

Olivia Dunne has attracted a great deal of attention on and off the bars.

Dunne, a WCGA All-American in the uneven bars, boasts over 6.7 million followers on TikTok and nearly 3 million followers on Instagram.

Since the NCAA dropped its policy prohibiting college athletes from profiting off their internet fame in 2021, the 20-year-old college junior has become America’s top-paid female college athlete.

On3 reported that the 20-year-old has signed deals with various big brands including American Eagle, Plant Fuel, and Bartleby, bringing in over $2 million. Dunne frequently showcases her sponsors’ products in the videos she posts to social media.

Dunne told the New York Times in November that she is proud of her resultant seven-figure earnings, “Especially since I’m a woman in college sports.”

While her notoriety has proven lucrative, it can be discomfiting at times.

Nola.com reported that when Dunne’s gymnastics team competed against the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Jan. 6, fans packed the stands and stalked the exits of the building in hopes of snagging a selfie with the gymnast, some chanting, “We want her.”

Dunne was not even competing last week, having been sidelined with an injury.

Olympic medalist and broadcaster Samantha Peszek posted a video of some of Dunne’s predominantly male fans with the caption, “This is actually so scary and disturbing and cringey. I’m embarrassed for them.”

KSL.com sports reporter Josh Furlong indicated that LSU was forced to move its team bus to avoid Dunne’s fans and that police had to be stationed to prevent the boys from getting in.

Furlong tweeted, “There’s literally a line outside of the Huntsman Center of teenage boys that keep asking if Livvy is coming out. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The mother of a Utah gymnast suggested that the fans, keen on seeing and meeting Dunne, were “rude and disrespectful” to other athletes.

The New York Post reported that the rowdy mob disrupted other athletes’ routines.

Dunne’s mother underscored that it was inappropriate to blame the fans’ behavior on the gymnast:

Over the weekend, Dunne responded, tweeting, “I will always appreciate and love the support from you guys, but if you come to a meet, I want to ask you to please be respectful of the other gymnasts and the gymnastics community as we are just doing our job.”

Safe landing

Jay Clark, Dunne’s coach, indicated he has previously “run people off,” and there has been at least one instance where LSU police had to intervene.

Moving forward, a security officer will stand guard outside the LSU team’s locker room and hotels when they travel to competitions across the country for the remainder of the year.

Clark told the Advocate/Times-Picayune, “That person will be in our hotel and outside our locker room and getting us to and from the bus at the venue. … (The officer) will be there to create a perimeter that keeps everybody safe.”

“We want to be accessible to our fans with autographs and kids, but we also don’t want to bury our heads in the sand. We want to make sure everybody is safe at all times,” said Clark.

Dunne’s coach suggested that things have to change; that student athletes cannot be left exposed to the mob, especially as this trend accelerates.

Extra to the security guard, moving forward, LSU athletes will not be permitted to go into the stands immediately following a meet.

Concerning the incident in Utah, Dunne admitted that “things got out of control.”

“We wanted to get ahead of it, but we didn’t see what happened last week coming as big as it’s been. It’s been bubbling under the surface for a year now,” he added.

“Probably 99 percent of the people there were seeking autographs, but you never know when you get a crowd like that. We’ll do the best we can to protect them,” said the coach. “It’s at the forefront of my mind as a father and coach of these young women. We take very seriously the responsibility to keep them safe.”

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