LSU gymnast who makes $2 MILLION-a-year from sponsors and posting racy pictures online is slammed by leading coach for fueling ‘step back’ in sexism battle

  • Olivia Dunne, 20, a gymnast for Louisiana State, is reportedly earning $2million-a-year through name, image and likeness (NIL) deals 
  • Her large salary comes from amassing more than eight millions of followers on social media and posting sponsored content
  • Although the social media tactic has allowed young female athletes to join the rank of millionaires, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer slammed the trend
  • She said it was regressive for women in sports as they fight for equality 

A Louisiana State University gymnast earning $2million-a-year from sponsors and racy photos on social media has been slammed by a prominent women’s basketball coach for upholding sexism in sports. 

Olivia Dunne, 20, is among several female athletes joining the rank of millionaires through name, image and likeness (NIL) deals. 

After college athletes were allowed to enter such deals last years, there has been an upward trend of female athletes showing off candid and flirty posts to secure millions of social media followers that boosts endorsement deals. 

While Dunne said the strategy has helped her win a seven-figure salary, Stanford University’s Tara VanDerveer, the most successful coach in women’s college basketball, told the New York Times the trend is regressive for female athletes. 

‘I guess sometimes we have this swinging pendulum, where we maybe take two steps forward, and then we take a step back,’ she said. ‘We’re fighting for all the opportunities to compete, to play, to have resources, to have facilities, to have coaches, and all the things that go with Olympic-caliber athletics.’ 

‘This is a step back,’ she added. 

Olivia Dunne (above), 20, a gymnast for Louisiana State, is reportedly earning $2million-a-year through name, image and likeness (NIL) deals

With her NIL deals valued at $2.3million, she is the highest-earning female college athlete from the contracts, which students were allowed to enter into last year 

Her large salary comes from amassing millions of followers on social media and posting endorsements. Pictured: Dunne showing off jeans from American Eagle on Instagram 

Although the social media tactic has allowed young female athletes to join the rank of millionaires, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer (pictured last week) said the trend was regressive for women in sports

Despite VanDerveer’s criticism, Dunne told the Times the social media strategy has allowed her to earn a larger salary than what focusing on sports alone would have gotten her. 

‘Seven figures,’ she said. ‘That is something I’m proud of. Especially since I’m a woman in college sports.

‘There are no professional leagues for most women’s sports after college,’ she added. 

Dunne started participating in gymnastics at the age of three, and the New Jersey native is now one of the top earners in collegiate sports after raking in her first million by the time she was 18.

After years of competition, she made her elite debut at the 2014 American Classic and went on to join the U.S. national gymnastics team three years later. 

In 2020, she stepped away from elite gymnastics to compete at the college level at Louisiana State University.

Dunne grew her social media following by sharing an inside look at her glamorous life as an NCAA gymnast. 

By August 2021, she was the most-followed college athlete with five million combined followers across multiple platforms. As of November, she has amassed more than eight million followers. 

Dunne’s large wealth stems from this rise as an influencer, where she posts sponsored ads on her social media pages flooded with pics of the gymnast showing off her body. 

Some of her recent deals have been with American Eagle Outfitters and Vuori activewear. 

Fellow gymnast Sunisa Lee, a Tokyo Games bronze medalist of Auburn University, and Miami basketball playing twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder, are also among some of the other young athletes who become millionaires through similar tactics. 

By August 2021, Dunne was the most-followed college athlete with five million combined followers across multiple platforms

As of November, she has amassed more than eight million followers, which she uses to secure NIL deals. Pictured: Dunne in a sponsored post for Vuori activewear.


Tokyo Games bronze medalist Sunisa Lee (above) is the second wealthiest female college athlete from NILs following Dunne  

Haley and Hanna Cavinder, of Miami University, amassed a large social media following during the pandemic, and now have 4.1 million followers on their shared TikTok alone. Both sisters are valued at above $794,000 alone from NIL deals

Haley Jones, an All-American guard at Stanford, said female athletes nowadays have to choose if they want to participate on social media or loose out on what could be the biggest profit of their careers. 

She told the Time she earns a six-figure salary from endorsements while avoiding ‘bikini pictures,’ instead focusing on a persona of a lighthearted college student. 

While she avoided using the same criticisms of her coach, Jones noted that athletes like Dunne face their own challenges by having to deal with leering and oversexualized comments on social media. 

‘You can go outside wearing sweatpants and a puffer jacket, and you’ll be sexualized,’ Jones told the Times. ‘I could be on a podcast, and it could just be my voice, and I’ll face the same thing. 

So, I think it will be there, no matter what you do or how you present yourself.’ 

The top five-earning female college athletes becoming millionaires through NIL deals 

1. Olivia Dunne, 20, Gymnast at LSU 

NIL Valuation – $2.3 million

Per Post Value – $31,000 

LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne, 20, tops On3’s NIL Valuation list ranking college athletes by performance, influence, and exposure

Dunne has a valuation of $2.3 million, according to the sports website, which uses a proprietary algorithm to calculate the monetary value of an athlete’s name, image, and likeness (NIL) 

Olivia Dunne started participating in gymnastics at the age of three, and the New Jersey native is now one of the top earners in collegiate sports after raking in her first million by the time she was 18. 

After years of competition, she made her elite debut at the 2014 American Classic and went on to join the U.S. national gymnastics team three years later. In 2020, she stepped away from elite gymnastics to compete at the college level at Louisiana State University. 

Dunne grew her social media following by sharing an inside look at her glamorous life as an NCAA gymnast. By August 2021, she was the most-followed college athlete with 5 million combined followers across multiple platforms. 

Initially, she wasn’t allowed to make money off of her online fame due to the NCAA’s restrictions on payments to athletes, including sponsorship deals, but that all changed when the organization changed its policy in June 2021. 

The influencer has a combined total of 8.3 million followers on TikTok and Instagram

In September 2021, she announced that she had landed a partnership with activewear brand Vuori, which Forbes reported was worth ‘mid-six figure’

A month after it was announced that college athletes were allowed to earn a profit off of their name, image, and likeness, she signed with Endeavor Talent Agency’s WME Sports.

By September 2021, Dunne had announced that she had landed a partnership with activewear brand Vuori, which Forbes reported was worth ‘mid-six figures.’

As her star continued to rise, she went on to score lucrative deals with American Eagle, PlantFuel, and Bartleby. 

Dunne now has a combined total of 8.3 million followers on TikTok and Instagram, and her posts are valued at $31,000 each, according to On3. 

2. Sunisa Lee, 19, Gymnast at Auburn  

NIL Valuation – $1.5 million 

Per Post Value – $21,000 

Sunisa Lee, 19, comes in second place with a valuation of $1.5 million – a year after she won the gold in the women’s gymnastics all-around final at the Tokyo Olympics 

Lee, who is known as Suni to friends and family, went on to achieve great success as a gymnast at Auburn University

Sunisa Lee, who hails from Minnesota, is the daughter of Laotian refugees who fled the country in the wake of the Vietnam War — and she became the first Hmong-American to represent the United States at the Olympics.

She was six when her parents signed her up for classes at Midwest Gymnastics Center in Little Canada, where she trained with the gym’s owners and coaches Jess Graba and Alison Lim throughout her elite gymnastics career.  

In August 2019, tragedy struck her family when her father, John, fell off a ladder while trimming a neighbor’s tree branches, paralyzing himself from the waist down. He was still in the hospital when he insisted that she still compete in her first senior national championships days later. 

Knowing her dad was watching on TV, a then 16-year-old Lee dominated the competition, finishing the all-around in second place finished behind Simone Biles and earning gold on uneven bars.

In 2020, Lee became depressed when the Olympics were postponed, and she even considered quitting gymnastics. When she finally got back to the gym, she broke her foot, setting her back. She also lost a beloved aunt and uncle who contracted COVID-19. 

Lee has a total of 3.5 million followers across Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter, and social media posts are valued at $21,000 each, according to On3

The gold medalist has a number of big-name partnerships, including deals with Target, Amazon, and Gatorade

Despite her struggles, she became a household name after last year’s Tokyo Olympics, where she won a gold medal in the women’s gymnastics all-around final and helped Team USA take home silver.

Shortly after the Olympics, she went on to compete on season 30 of ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ where she finished in fifth place. 

The gymnast may not have attended Auburn University if the NCAA hadn’t opened the door for college athletes to earn money, allowing her to profit off of her Olympic fame.  

Lee, who is known as Suni to friends and family, has already had a great deal of success at college and was named SEC Freshman of the Year this past spring.

She also finished first on the balance beam and second in the all-around at the 2022 NCAA championships. 

Lee has a total of 3.5 million followers across Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter, and social media posts are valued at $21,000 each, according to On3.

The gold medalist has a number of big-name partnerships, including deals with Target, Amazon, and Gatorade.

3. Paige Bueckers, 20, Women’s Basketball Player at UConn

NIL Valuation – $816,000 

Per Post Value: $11,200

UConn guard Paige Bueckers, 20, has taken the third spot with a valuation of $816,000

Bueckers tore her ACL during a pick-up game in August, and it was announced that she would miss the entire 2022-2023 season, leaving her with three years of eligibility

Paige Bueckers has been playing basketball since she was five and was a star athlete when she was a student at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minnesota. 

She was ranked as the number one recruit in her class by ESPN and won the 2020 Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year award her senior year. 

Bueckers, who is now a junior, averaged 20 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 5.7 assists in her freshman year at the University of Connecticut. It is widely regarded by experts as one of the most historic first-year campaigns in UConn and NCAA history. 

In November 2021, the Huskies guard signed her first endorsement deal with the e-commerce platform StockX. That same month, she became the first college athlete to be signed by Gatorade. 

The college basketball star has a total of 1.38 million followers across Instagram and TikTok

Buekers has deals with StockX, Crocs (pictured), Cash App, and Chegg

She also has deals with Crocs, Cash App, and Chegg. 

Bueckers tore her ACL during a pick-up game in August, and it was announced that she would miss the entire 2022-2023 season, leaving her with three years of eligibility. 

She shared last month that she will return to the Huskies for the 2023-2024 season, despite being eligible for the WNBA draft.  

The college basketball star has a total of 1.38 million followers across Instagram and TikTok, which puts her per post value at $11,200, according to On3. 

4. Haley Cavinder, 21, Women’s Basketball Player at Miami

NIL Valuation – $794,000 

Per Post Value – $10,700

5. Hanna Cavinder, 21, Women’s Basketball Player at Miami

NIL Valuation – $790,000

Per Post Value – $10,600

Identical twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder have taken the fourth and fifth spots on On3’s NIL Valuation list


The 21-year-old sisters from Gilbert, Arizona, started their college basketball careers at California State University, Fresno, before transferring to the University of Miami 

Identical twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder have taken the fourth and fifth spots on On3’s NIL Valuation list. 

The 21-year-old sisters from Gilbert, Arizona, started their college basketball careers at California State University, Fresno, where they combined to average 34.2 points per game in their three seasons with the Bulldogs, according to the Associated Press.

Haley and Hanna amassed a large social media following during the pandemic, and now have 4.1 million followers on their shared TikTok alone.

Many of their viral videos show them dancing and wearing their basketball uniforms. They also have a combined total of 977,000 followers on their shared and individual Instagram pages. 

The 5-foot-6 guards didn’t waste any time cashing in on their fame. They signed their first major endorsement deal with Boost Mobile on July 1, 2021, the day the NCAA rule changes went into effect


Haley (left) has a per post value of $10,700, while Haley’s (right) is slightly less at $10,600, according to On3’s metrics

In June, Forbes estimated that they have earned $1.7 million in deals before taxes and agents’ fees

The 5-foot-6 guards didn’t waste any time cashing in on their fame. They signed their first major endorsement deal with Boost Mobile on July 1, 2021, the day the NCAA rule changes went into effect. 

They now have more than 30 other brand partnerships, including Venmo, Champs Sports, and Core Hydration. 

The Cavinder twins announced in April that they were transferring to the University of Miami to play for the Hurricanes. They insisted at the time that the move had nothing to do with increasing their NIH deals. 

In June, Forbes estimated that they have earned $1.7 million in deals before taxes and agents’ fees. 

Haley has a per post value of $10,700, while Haley’s is slightly less at $10,600, according to On3’s metrics.

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