It's a well-known fact that ESPN doesn't always stick to sports. And this week The Worldwide Leader in (Liberal and Naked) Sports will prove again that it doesn't always stick to clothed athletes either. ESPN is unveiling—disrobing is a better word choice—its 10th edition of the Body Issue (online and in its magazine), and 16 current and former athletes will be featured without a stitch of clothing. For the past few days, the network website has been titillating viewers by featuring nude photos from an archive of the past nine years of body issues.
Apparently our sex-drenched culture needs one more media outlet appealing to people's prurient interests. Swimsuits and faux swimsuits painted on models sells magazines and gets clicks for Sports Illustrated. ESPN one-downs SI by featuring completely buck naked athletes to raise viewership during the dog days of summer. No privates are visible on these immodest athletes; those are covered by side views and arms and legs, allowing the athletes to run, jump and cavort about with no fabric restraints at all.
"Remember when Courtney Conlogue posed in 2016," an ESPN headline reminisces below a photo (currently posted at the top of ESPN.com's home page) of the women's professional surfer standing on a beach with her board. ESPN's headline heralding "A memorable decade of the body issue" gives new meaning to Wide World of Sports' invoking of "the constant variety of sport."
Writing about ESPN's raw variety of sport, USA Today's Charles Curtis called the body issue "a celebration of athlete bodies that come in all shapes and forms with pros posing in the buff."
Even with a scorecard, you can't tell all the players in this birthday-suited lineup.
The issue is welcoming to rainbow athletes, too. Pro basketball players Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, who are dating, and the world's most famous Olympic bronze medalist, Adam Rippon, are featured, too. Last year's shoot featured homosexual skier Gus Kenworthy.
The body issue comes with peripherals, too. There's Making of the Body Issue that gives viewers all the unnecessary details that merely get in the way of viewing the sensational images.
An ESPN post raved that it took 352 people to produce last year's body issue, requiring months of preparation and multiple shooting locations. No doubt. Some things just can't be hurried or staffed too thinly.
No expense was spared by the network that shed the salaries of numerous employees in recent years. More than 1,200 pounds of the same clay used at the French Open were brought in to make a fake tennis court for one shoot. Photo shoots also occurred in exotic locations like Hawaii. It helped that ESPN did not have to bust the bank on wardrobe.
Photographer Joe Pugliese, who shot images of the U.S. "nude" women's national hockey team last year in Florida, said, “The first minutes of a body shoot are a little bit tense, and you have to start slow and get them on your side.” Very slowly. Again, some things can't be rushed by the people who don't stick to sports or clothing.
Making ZZ Top and Duck Dynasty's Robertsons look well-groomed by comparison, ESPN created six yards of synthetic hair, in six colors, for beards covering the private parts of male athletes.
Dallas Cowboys' running back Ezekiel Elliott had 500 gallons of water poured on him to get the perfect shot. However, ESPN marketers blew it by not including David Hasselhoff's "Babe Watch" rescue team giving him CPR and saving his life.
Nudity is just part of the ESPN culture, says former employee Adrienne Lawrence. Suing ESPN for sexual harassment, she claims women are routinely objectified there and employees watch pornography in the work place. So a word to the wise for ESPN: if the Lawrence suit goes to trial, you might want to downplay the Body Issue.