ESPN The Mag: Gronk, Chandler, Parker among ‘Body Issue’ covers

ESPN The Magazine launches its fourth “Body Issue” — an annual celebration of the athletic form — featuring 27 talents from across the world of sports and six special covers showcasing: Rob Gronkowski, Jose Bautista, Tyson Chandler, Daniela Hantuchova, Candace Parker and Ronda Rousey.

The Mag provides Front Row a sneak peek of the Body Issue arriving for subscribers this week and on newsstands Friday.

The Mag’s Deputy Editor Neely Lohmann discusses what makes this fourth edition so special (other than the fact that it’s her first as top editor).

This is your first Body Issue as the top editor. How does this assignment differ from other issues you’ve been responsible for?
Well, I’m pretty sure no other issue involves asking athletes to get naked! But it’s a process that’s taken very seriously by everyone involved. Each athlete has different reasons for wanting to be in the issue — different reservations, different personal feelings about doing it. The whole process — from the initial ask, to all the conversations with them about what they want out of the experience, to finally being with them on the set when they see the images on the monitor and their eyes light up — it’s a very personal journey for the athletes that’s so rewarding to be a part of.

How did you decide on who would be the six cover subjects, and why are there six?
We had an overwhelming number of truly amazing photographs to choose from this year, which is why there are six covers. We wanted to have as many as we could get because whittling the photographs down to the best of the best isn’t easy. When making the final call, we paid attention to diversity — we like to have a good mix of men and women, a good mix of different body types represented, different sports, etc. (NOTE: Distribution of covers is completely random.)

How is a cover shoot different from shoots for a layout?
They really aren’t that different. In fact, we often shoot athletes without having any preconceived notions about whether or not they will end up on the cover. We are always in pursuit of the most compelling, most unique photographs we can get. But when we see an image that blows us away, something that everyone really responds to, we know it’s going to be seriously considered for a cover spot—no matter who the athlete is.

How bold and/or shy are the subjects?
We’ve seen it all. You really never know what to expect. Some athletes who you might expect to be shy are totally unencumbered on set — their robe is no where in sight. Others who don’t have any reservations sometimes end up with a last-minute case of nerves. But in all cases, once the athlete spends time with the photographer and sees the images on the monitor, they get excited about what they see and they start to have a lot of fun with it.

How many images were shot for the issue, and how did you whittle it down to the final number of shots used in the final?
I can’t begin to imagine how many images we shot for this issue — thousands, certainly. And whittling down those images to our favorites is both tremendously fun and incredibly difficult. But the photographers do the first edit; they send us the ones they are most happy with. From that group, I work closely with the photo editors, Karen Frank and Nancy Weisman, creative director, John Korpics, and Editor-in-Chief, Chad Millman, to select the ones we feel best represent the athlete. But even then, we have some tough calls. That’s why we include exclusive extras in our online photo gallery. You can view them and behind-the-scenes video with some of the Body athletes at www.espn.com/bodyissue (LIVE at Noon ET).

  • Tracy

    Why is there so much negativity with this cover??? Women have shown less and they don’t get the negative press. As a women he has an amazing body, as do swim suit models, flaunt it while you got it. If you find it offensive, don’t buy the magazine. I for one will go out and buy this one, give me something to …… Smile at!!!

  • pm

    I thought you were a sports family magazine. Why would you have a naked sports player on the cover and in the magazine? How do we protect our children if magazines that are supposed to be sports or a sports program shows this pornography garbage!!

  • JusTaFan

    This magazine is a good thing. This shows everyone, including kids what real athletic bodies look like. They take hard work and dedication and based on what sport you compete in they can look extremely different. Sports Illustrated is showing the sport side of bodies. These aren’t fitness MODELS they are COMPETITORS and damn good ones.

  • Clarence Boddicker

    It’s amusing to me that the human body is considered obscene and something children should never see but parents are completely unconcerned that their children are constantly exposed to depictions of violence. Many of them very graphic. In fact local news channels occasionally show actual deaths, this is fine but Janet Jackson’s partially exposed breast for three seconds results in a Supreme Court case. It’s not nudity that children should be protected from.

  • Jborange

    The human body is a beautiful thing,especially an athletic body.ESPN the Magazine is trying to show the beauty and strength of the athletic body.Whether or not photos of the human body should be classified as porn depends on how much of the body is exposed,and what type of magazine the photos are published in.ESPN the Magazine’s the Body Issue is definitely not porn.It’s a sports magazine for sports fans,especially male sports fans.As far as I know,ESPN the Magazine never claimed to be a children’s sports magazine.If parents are looking for a sports magazine for their children to read,then they should get Sports Illustrated for Kids.It’s the parents responsibility to censor what their children read,listen to and watch, and to decide what is proper,age-appropriate entertainment for them.The media is not responsible for censoring what kids see.They’ve already done their part by creating the ratings system for tv and movies,the parental block feature for tv and computers,showing the more graphic programs at 9:00 pm or later,and so on.It’s the parents job to control what types of programs,music,online info,and literature comes into their homes.

  • Davis Yuge

    My problem with this magazine is the way it was shipped. The nudish Gronk, should have had some sort of “covering”

    Point being, I asked my 9 year old to get the mail, as I had a phone call. This also arrived with her Nick Magazine. Having to explain to her sister, a 5 year old, why a naked man is on the cover, was a bit much.

    This all could have been made better by partially covering, or protecting the suggestive cover.