Texas Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder is on the cover of the annual ESPN Magazine Body Issue, in all his gorgeous, bearish glory.
The five-time All Star baseball star poses for one of the issue’s skin-baring shots which resulted in a barrage of ridicule and criticism online, condemning him for not having a typical athletic body. Sayeth the Twitter trolls:
- i was tempted to have another donut this morning. Then i saw the photo of naked Prince Fielder. Thanks, ESPN.
- Wtf were you thinkin ESPN?? That cover *ugh* was not attractive #PrinceFielder
- Sorry #PrinceFielder, but if i lived to be 99, i didn’t need to see this. Thanks #ESPN. Reason 568 i dumped the mag
- #PrinceFielder naked in #ESPNBodyissue. Excuse me while i claw my eyes out.#cantunseethat #bodybyPapaJohns
- brb putting bleach in my eyes. RT @TerezOwens: The interweb has already started on #PrinceFielder
He doesn’t care. He talks body image in the magazine’s interview saying (among other things):
You don’t have to look like an Under Armour mannequin to be an athlete. 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.
I got some nice 22s. My dad has big arms, and everyone in my family has them, so it’s just normal in my house. I had them when I was younger too, but obviously there was a little more cholesterol behind them [laughs]. They’ve always been big, just needed to fill them out with some solid stuff in there.
I need to feed the size. Obviously, I’m a big guy. But I also need to feed myself with the right things. I have a chef now, so it’s definitely easier to make sure that I’m getting full off of the right foods. If I don’t stay on it, it can get out of control.
I wish I would have eaten right earlier in my career. My thing was, especially during the season, I would just lift weights and eat — play for the tie. I’d eat a big meal, then do cardio to try to make it even. Instead of eating right and working smart, I was working harder and making myself more tired.
Meanwhile, Tumblr has been having a field day with the images, as you can imagine:
I found this glowing tribute to his nude layout at devilandgodrageinme
As a large man of color myself I couldn’t help but to feel some existential pride seeing Prince Fielder on the cover. He is a big man, with wide shoulders and a large build, he always has been. People will say some insensitive shit about this but to me, when this hits shelves this week, people will see it. They will see a big man strutting his stuff on the cover of one of the biggest sports magazines ever.
I grew up playing sports as a big kid, always feeling like I had to prove something; That I wasn’t being respected because of my weight. It took some mental fortitude to take the abuses and keep moving. Prince represents one of the best players in his particular craft and while he still faces the stigma, he still consistently proves people wrong.
This issue also says a big “fuck you” to traditional beauty. He’s big and colored and tattooed and, in my eyes, a representative of me and people like me. I truly hope this one magazine cover becomes the start of a new perception in mainstream athleticism and beauty. Be big, be skinny, be different, be who you are and fucking love yourself, you’ve earned it.
Also coming to his defense was an editorial in Care2, saying:
…if there is anything to be learned from this whole situation, it’s that body shaming and body image concerns aren’t exclusively a woman’s issue. if what happened to Fielder doesn’t convince you then how about this recent Today/AOL body image survey which found that men worry about their appearance more than they worry about their health, family, relationships or professional success.
That’s not all. The survey also found that nearly half of all men think about their personal appearance several times each day and 53% said they felt unsure about their appearance at least once a week. Dieting was also a major concern among men with 63% of participants saying they “always feel like (they) could lose weight.” Women also aren’t the only ones who worry when it comes to beach season. The survey found that 44% of men feel uncomfortable wearing bathing suits and another 41% said they worry that people will judge their appearance.
While we’ve long filed body image concerns as a concern for women, the issue now often hits home for men as well. Another study from the JAMA Pediatrics looked at body image in younger boys. The study found that 18% of boys are highly concerned about their weight and body. Of these nearly half were predominately worried about gaining more muscle. Such concerns resulted in boys being more likely to be depressed and engage in high-risk behaviors such as binge drinking and drug use.
That’s why Fielder’s inclusion in ESPN’s Body issue is so special. His nude shots are a great contrast to the everyday examples that engulf young boys’ and men’s lives. Showing a male figure like Fielder who is not only strong, but also proud of his huskier body, is proof positive that beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes.
Now, i’d say that’s a home run.