When it comes to ESPN magazine covers in general, and the ESPN Body Issue cover in particular, the norm is to feature men and women who are tanned, toned, and gorgeous. Examples from the past include 2012's Daniela Hantuchova, 2011's Blake Griffin, and Diana Taurasi in 2010. However, the latest Body Issue cover features baseball player Prince Fielder, and it's set the online world on fire. Fielder, who is stockier than the "typical" swoon-worthy sports stars like David Beckham and Ryan Lochte, appears on the cover in his birthday suit, proudly holding a baseball bat.
Many of the tweets have been negative, criticizing Fielder for his weight:
Fortunately, plenty of Twitter users have shot back with support for the images. The hashtag #HuskyTwitter has experienced a surge in popularity because of the photos:
In an article that appeared on ESPN's website, Fielder said, "A lot of people probably think I'm not athletic or don't even try to work out or whatever, but I do. Just because you're big doesn't mean you can't be an athlete. And just because you work out doesn't mean you're going to have a 12-pack. I work out to make sure I can do my job to the best of my ability. Other than that, I'm not going up there trying to be a fitness model."
"Just because you're big doesn't mean you can't be an athlete."
Although this message has been said hundreds of times and hundreds of ways, the photos of Fielder are a fantastic reminder that beautiful, strong bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Fielder is the youngest athlete in Major League Baseball to have hit 50 home runs in a season, and he won both the 2009 and 2012 Home Run Derby. It's clear that he's a successful player. As long as his weight isn't getting in the way of his job or his health, I don't see what the problem is. He doesn't look like our "perfect" athletic body, and so what? If he cared so little that he agreed to this shoot, we shouldn't care either.
Both plus-size men and plus-size women face fat-shaming on a daily basis, when doing everything from shopping for clothes to going to school. The fact that ESPN chose to feature Fielder demonstrates an important step forward in destigmatizing bodies that don't fit with the societal ideal.