ABC: Are Some Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Pictures Racist?

Talk about your phony controversies.

On ABC's Good Morning America Sunday, they actually did a segment addressing whether or not some of the pictures taken during the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue photo shoots were - wait for it! - racist (video follows with transcript and commentary):

Co-host Dan Harris teased at the program’s opening:

DAN HARRIS, CO-HOST: Racy or racist? The new controversy about the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Do the shots of models in exotic locales turn local people into props? We'll show you the pictures. You decide.

About 30 minutes later:

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CO-HOST: But first, controversy over the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The issue is known for its pictures with scantily clad women in international locations, but there's something else in this year's photos that's raising eyebrows. ABC's Tanya Rivero is here with the story. Hey Tanya.

TANYA RIVERO: Hey guys. That’s right, certain pictures on the Sports Illustrated website, especially some from a shoot the swimsuit issue did in Namibia, have upset many people. They’re speaking out. Take a look at the pictures and you be the judge.


RIVERO: With a white hot cover shot of Kate Upton, this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue made a big splash with buzz about photo shoots on all seven continents. But this year beautiful models in barely there bikinis are sharing air time with controversy brewing over some photos and video SI posted online that did not make it into the magazine, particularly these taken in Africa and this shot from China. Some are calling them at best culturally insensitive.

MARC LAMONT HILL: For me the African picture was probably the most offensive because it played on some of the most old and stereotypical images. It showed the African as primitive, almost uncivilized.

RIVERO: On the website Jezebel, deputy editor Dodai Stewart is also critical of the photos writing, “Using people of color as background or extras is a popular fashion trope…But although it's prevalent, it's very distasteful…People are not props."

One of the models, Emily DiDonato, talks about her shoot on SI’s site.

EMILY DIDONATO: It was such a cool experience to shoot with someone like that, something completely different than anything I’ve ever seen or someone I’ve met in my life.

RIVERO: Some people we spoke with didn't see a problem with the photos.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: As a traveler myself, I think I love seeing these places and seeing other cultures. So I think it’s great that they’re showing this in magazines.

RIVERO: Proving once again that controversy just like beauty is often in the eye of the beholder.


RIVERO: And Sports Illustrated gave ABC News this statement saying: “This year's edition went to all seven continents, something no other publication has done, to present the natural beauty of each setting and its people. We apologize to anyone who has taken exception to the way their culture was represented." So they did issue an apology.

HARRIS: And oftentimes controversy does not hurt in a situation like this.

RIVERO: I’m sure they will still sell many magazines.

GOLODRYGA: I’m sure they will.

Now one can understand the deputy editor of Jezebel getting tweaked out about this, although readers should be cautioned: some of Stewart's complaints are just absurd.

But did ABC News really have to give this matter attention?

Or was it just another opportunity to show pictures of scantily clad women in order to titillate viewers?

If the answer is the latter, did they have to do it on a Sunday?

After all, the Jezebel piece was published five days ago.

Maybe most importantly, what happened to the post-racial America we were promised if Barack Obama was elected president?

Now even Sports Illustrated swimsuit pictures are racist.

What's next?

(HT Dan Gainor)

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Race Issues Racism ABC Good Morning America Video Bianna Golodryga Tanya Rivero Dan Harris
Noel Sheppard's picture