U.S. women’s national team and magicJack soccer goalie Hope Solo steps up her game from World Cup star to nude action figure on one of four covers of ESPN The Magazine’s third annual The Body Issue that appears on newsstands Friday.
The others are Olympic snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin and New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes.
The Body Issue features male and female professional athletes posing naked in a tasteful fashion. That is, with private parts strategically covered.
The stated objective is exploration and celebration of the athletic form. The cover shot shows Solo looking competitive and powerful in a high-stepping pose. There is another odd photo of her in the front yard of a house with a hose watering the lawn that makes no connection to athletics at all.
So is it exploration or exploitation?
Solo, who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated following the United States’ loss in the World Cup Final, let it be known she was posing sans uniform in August via Twitter when she tweeted. “Being naked outside is very liberating....atleast I hope it will be @ESPN and @ESPNMAG!!! GAMETIME BABY! Ball up!”
In a promotional video for The Body Issue, she reiterated that the experience was “liberating” and said, “I don’t take it serious being a sex symbol at all. I’m an athlete, that’s all I am. If a sex symbol is now a top female athlete, I think that’s pretty amazing and it shows how far our country has come from the stick-thin models you see in most magazines.”
The four cover subjects are featured along with 18 other athletes posing nude in the “Bodies We Want” section of the issue.
The other women are: Olympic gymnast Alicia Sacramone; Sylvia Fowles of the WNBA's Chicago Sky; LPGA rookie Belen Mozo; track and field star Natasha Hastings; hockey player Julie Chu; tennis player Vera Zvonareva; surfer Steph Gilmore; roller derby skater Suzy Hotrod and bowler Kelly Kulick.
The other men are: Steven Jackson of the NFL's St. Louis Rams; speedskater Apolo Ohno; hockey player Ryan Kesler of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks; UFC fighter Jon Jones; IndyCar racer Helio Castroneves; snowboarder Louie Vito; boxer Sergio Martinez; marathoner Ryan Hall and Paralympian Jeremy Campbell.
In the promotional video, Solo said, “Looking at my body I’m perfect for what I do.”
That doesn’t mean it was easy to show it off during the eight-hour photo shoot. In an interview with Access Hollywood, she said, "I started screaming when I dropped the robe, but by the end of the day I was talking to people like it was nothing."
Here is a link to videos of the four cover models and a photo gallery of all of the athletes featured in the The Body Issue.
Follow Craig Davis on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns