Police called in as Olivia Dunne fans mob gymnastics meet: ‘Scary, disturbing, and cringey’

A high-powered college gymnastics meet between the LSU Tigers and Utah Utes on Friday night was upended by fans who came to the arena in Salt Lake City to see LSU star Olivia Dunne.

Ms Dunne, 20, is one of the biggest stars in college athletics – a rarity for gymnastics. She has more than 6 million followers on TikTok, nearly 3 million followers on Instagram, and a name, image and likeness (NIL) valuation of some $2.5m.

Her status as a social media star drew a number of fans out to the season-opening clash between Utah and LSU, but the spectacle some of them created overwhelmed a contest between two of the top gymnastics programs in the country.

Ms Dunne was not competing on Friday night due to a labrum issue. But a group of male fans in the arena chanted her name and held up signs for her throughout the event, even as other athletes were competing.

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Following the conclusion of the match, which Utah narrowly won, a group of predominantly young male fans waited outside the arena for Ms Dunne to emerge — yelling at other gymnists who were not her. The scene became intense enough that LSU moved its team bus to avoid the fans, which police officers positioned to prevent the fans from getting to the team.

Star athletes are often met by fans in and around stadiums, but the gender and age dynamics at play on Friday night, along with the specific sport in question, are somewhat atypical. Ms Dunne spoke out about the situation after the meet — thanking fans for their support but urging them to rein in their enthusiasm.

“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,” Ms Dunne wrote on Twitter.

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The situation attracted a significant amount of attention in the American gynmastics community, with a number of former athletes and media personalities weighing in on the situation. Former Olympic medalist and broadcaster Samantha Peszek called the scene “scary and disturbing and cringey,” and said she was embarassed for the young men in a tweet.

Kathy Johnson Clarke, who was also at the arena on Friday night, expressed similar sentiments.

“I was walking out just behind you, Sam, and they were screaming to me, “Are you Livvy’s mom? Are you Livvy’s mom?” Very disturbing,” Ms Clark tweeted. “Creepy, actually.”