ESPN The Magazine released its first Body Issue edition in 2009. It had a glowing Serena Williams on its cover, posing nude, but strategically covering her body parts. She was praised and was called a ‘sex symbol of strength’ back then. Cut to 2017, Williams posed again in the nude, this time showing off her beautiful pregnancy on the cover of Vanity Fair. While she managed to garner praise for her graceful power pose again, another cover is garnering flak on the Internet. ESPN shared a dekko of its 2017 Body Issue featuring American Football running back Ezekiel ‘Zekke’ Elliott in the nude with the caption ‘You can add “cover boy” to Zeke’s resume’, and many have gone weak on social media.
Many Twitter users, of whom, interestingly almost all were men, called out the magazine’s attempt at ‘objectifying men’. While they debated, counter arguments came up from other men and women who called out their ‘fragile egos’. ‘So only women should be objectified?’ was one argument, while pacifists had just one thing to say — ‘It’s just a naked body!’ and that it wasn’t necessary to see it in sexualised context. Meanwhile, others went on to tag the footballer ‘gay’ and a ‘homosexual’.
Since 2009, the magazine has released Body Issue editions that talk about the bodies of athletes. In addition to regular sports coverage, the edition talks about the best bodies, the damage to athletes’ bodies due to surgery and injuries and have many sports personalities posing in the buff.
The GIF of the cover that ESPN shared on its Twitter account has evidently left many Twitter users, mostly men, feeling squeamish and uneasy. Here are some of the reactions that ESPN’s latest cover has managed to garner.