ESPN Mag Announces Roster of Naked Athletes for Body Issue 2011

BlogHer Original Post

 If you prefer your professional athletes baring just about everything and showing off their rock-hard bodies in the process, then you'll love the upcoming issue of ESPN The Magazine.

ESPN has announced the athletes who will be featured nude in the magazine's 2011 "Body Issue" . They are among a select group who stripped down for the “Body We Want” section of the Oct. 7th issue. Among the 20 athletes who will appear in the always controversial issue are Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin, Olympic gymnast Alicia Sacramone, snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson and Mets shortstop Jose Reyes.

Keeping it all in the Disney/ABC family, current Dancing WithThe Stars contestant and longtime goalkeeper of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, Hope Solo, is one of the big "gets." Solo prematurely hinted on Twitter that she would be photographed for this year's "Body Issue" back in August (oops). There will be four different covers but it's a good bet that Solo will be on one of them.

Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi graced one of the covers of the Body Issue last year and tennis superstar Serena Williams was the best-selling cover model for the 2009 edition.

Other female athletes wearing little more than lipstick for this year's issue: the WNBA's Sylvia Fowles; LPGA rookie Belen Mozo; track star Natasha Hastings; hockey player Julie Chu; tennis player Vera Zvonareva; surfer Steph Gilmore; roller derby player Suzy Hotrod and pro bowler Kelly Kulick.

The other male athletes include speedskater Apolo Ohno and IndyCar racer Helio Castroneves (both former DWTS contestants) ; NHL player Ryan Kesler; UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones; snowboarder Louie Vito; boxer Sergio Martinez; marathoner Ryan Hall and paralympian Jeremy Campbell.

This will be the third annual "Body Issue" which (unbelievably) has became one of the magazine’s biggest hits. When the first issue came out in 2009, it featured nearly three dozen athletes in semi-nude and nude pictures. The edition had six different covers featuring different athletes including Serena Williams (tennis player), Adrian Peterson (NFL), Gina Carano (MMA), Dwight Howard (NBA), Carl Edwards (NASCAR), and Sarah Reinersten (triathlons). The 2009 issue doubled the normal edition sales and featured 35% more ad sales than comparable issues. USA Today reported it was ESPN’s “top newsstand seller."

Athletes featured in the 2010 issue (many of whom are in the above making-of video) included tennis player Venus Williams, surfer Kelly Slater, pool player Jeanette "The Black Widow" Lee; Olympic skier Julia Mancuso, volleyball player Kim Glass, 12 members of the top-ranked USA Water Polo Women's National team and two dozen student-athletes from a Division I-A school.

Since the first "Body Issue" was published, the blogosphere has been filled with mixed reactions.Plenty of people feel the nudity is exploitive, especially for the female athletes. Serena, in particular, was criticized for bringing down female athletes, women tennis players, black women in sports, and women in general. The Root, however, was more positive saying "that with black publications folding left and right, the onus is on mainstream publications to celebrate black beauty." Albeit this was written by a man but others echoed his sentiment.

Other comments about the "Body Issue" include: "sexy photos marginalize everything women do on their respective playing fields", "women are discounting the other qualities that make them great athletes", "women pose in overly sexual ways to compensate for homophobia and the masculine aspects of playing sports"

Parenting Teens asked "Do we want our teenagers to aspire to posing nude for millions to see? Is that why they play sports?"

Dr. Nicole Lavoi, whose blog One Sport Voice takes a critical look at women in sport, writes of the Body Issue:

I will keep contending that seeing female athletes posed like this (given females only receive 6-8% of all sport media coverage), does nothing positive to promote women’s sports or female athletes. 

At the other end of the spectrum there are many fans of the magazine's Body Issue. Track and field athlete Akiba McKinney wrote in her The Beautiful Naked People post on Women Talk Sports:

Serena Williams' ESPN cover is amazing, Natashia Kai's photo is badass, LoLo jones photo is intriguing, Susan Francia's photo is sexy...all attractive women, of various athletic backgrounds, and extremely different body types, all of which deservingly so, should be featured buck naked!

So where do you stand on ESPN The Magazine's (Hot) Body Issue? Soft porn or a celebration of athletic bodies? And which athletes are you most looking forward to seeing?

@jschonb
dare to dream
Also online at prettytough.com and womentalksports.com

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