Bird admits she had no problems posing nude, but Storm teammate Breanna Stewart said she was cold being naked on the photo shoot. ESPN's 'Body Issue' hits newsstands Friday.
Since the unveiling of the 2018 ESPN’s ‘Body Issue’ on Monday, which features Seattle sports power couple Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe on the cover, the Storm star has been inundated with feedback.
“It’s been great, I would say 99.9 percent positive,” Bird said in a phone interview. “There are some people, which is mostly on Twitter and to be honest I try not to read a lot of the comments, who don’t like naked bodies.
“But I don’t view it that way at all. I think it’s a celebration of people who are athletes who part of their job is to take care of themselves and lead a healthy lifestyle. And we all look different. It’s a celebration of that. That’s how I see it.”
Bird, 37, and Rapinoe, 32 who stars for the Seattle Reign, are the first openly gay couple on the Body Issue cover, which debuted in 2009 and reaches 17.2 million subscribers.
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“As far as the cover and the whole being gay thing goes, it is meaningful,” said Bird, who came out last year and talked about her relationship with Rapinoe that began in 2016. “It’s all about changing people’s outlook on things and all about changing the narrative and the conversation. The more normalized it becomes, the easier that becomes. That’s how I see it. It’s just one step in that direction.”
Rapinoe, who came out publicly in 2012 at age 27, has been a vocal ambassador for Athlete Ally, an organization devoted to ending homophobia in sports.
Storm star Breanna Stewart appears on one of the 10 different covers for the 10th edition of the Body Issue, which features nude and scantily-clad male and female athletes.
“It was cold, but other than that it was a really interesting and cool shoot to be a part of,” Stewart said. “For me, when you get this far in your career you have to be comfortable for with your body.
“Was I eating ice chips the week before? Hell, yeah. But I wasn’t self-conscious or anything like that when I did the shoot.”
For Stewart, it’s been an emotional week in which she’s bared her body and soul. On Sunday, she appeared on the ESPN show E:60 and provided more details about her sexual assault as a child, which she originally shared in a 2017 story for The Player’s Tribune.
“I have not watched the E:60 yet,” Stewart said. “It’s something that isn’t the easiest thing for me to watch, but at some point I will find the time to do it.
“I’ve gotten positive feedback from everyone and my family. It’s kind of just putting yourself in more vulnerable situations, but being able to be a lot more relatable to people all over.”
The Body Issue, which hits newsstands Friday, reveals pictures and interviews of 16 athletes including: New York Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley, Houston Astros Cy Young award winner Dallas Keuchel, Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, L.A. Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig, Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice and 63-year-old golfer Greg Norman.
Bird and Stewart have received overwhelming rave reviews for their photo shoots, but Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike admitted she heard from several critics last year after appearing in the Body Issue.
“I got mixed reviews because I come from a very conservative culture being Nigerian,” Ogwumike said. “I had a lot of conference calls with family members.”
She enjoyed the experience, but added it was “the first time and the last time because it was so immersive.”
“My opportunity fell at that moment in my life where I felt OK I’m ready to do something like this and I would say that’s the same for Breanna,” Ogwumike said. “She’s come out with her own personal triumph and I think that was very honorable with her to be able to come out and be comfortable in her own skin with her background and the story that she told. I really admire that. I think that’s what it’s all about.”
Other WNBA players who have appeared in ESPN’s Body Issue include: Elena Delle Donne (2016), Brittney Griner (2015), Angel McCoughtry (2014), Swin Cash (2013), Candace Parker (2012), Sylvia Fowles (2011), Diana Taurasi (2010) and Cappie Pondexter (2009).
“Everybody has their own journey of why and when and what’s the purpose of it,” Parker said. “For me, I wanted to do it because I had a child and so many people told me that you’re not going to be the same after you have your daughter.
“And the Body Issue for me was telling everybody that look, women can do it all. We can create life and come back and still dominate in a sport.”
Bird said she had no problems getting naked for the cameras.
“I don’t know that I’m as conservative as portrayed,” she said. “I’m not wild and crazy or anything like that, but this isn’t Playboy. I remember when Lauren (Jackson) posed nude for the Australian magazine ahead of the Olympics. We all talked about it and I thought it was great. And they don’t cover up a lot of parts.
“Here, the important stuff is covered. No, it’s not like being in a bathing suit, but the pictures are all tasteful. The X-rated stuff is covered. … And it’s a celebration of athletes and their bodies and what they’re doing to prepare themselves. It’s really in my opinion promoting a healthy lifestyle and I’m all about that right now.”