If the folks at ESPN The Magazine were trying to create a buzz with their current cover, they have certainly succeeded. Although I'm guessing they thought the buzz would focus on the picture of a pregnant Candace Parker palming her belly and not the lead of the accompanying feature written by Allison Glock.
Here's the lead for those who haven't read it:
Candace Parker is beautiful. Breathtaking, really, with flawless skin, endless legs and a C cup she is proud of but never flaunts. She is also the best at what she does, a record-setter, a rule-breaker, a redefiner. She is a woman who plays like a man, one of the boys, if the boys had C cups and flawless skin. She's nice, too. Sweet, even. Kind to animals and children, she is the sort of woman who worries about others more than about herself, a saint in high-tops.
Now, I didn't think twice about the lead when I first read it although I can see why certain people would take exception to it. The focus, most would argue, should be on Parker's basketball ability and what makes her one of the most recognizable female athletes. The lead, however, fits the rest of the story. It drives home the point that Parker wants to be a bigger crossover star than Maria Sharapova and Danica Patrick, two female athletes, by the way, who didn't mind flaunting their respective cup sizes in order to garner attention.
The story, however, more than any I've ever read in a mainstream sports publication, drove home the difference in the way men and women are not only covered in sports but, really, how they are allowed to cover sports.
Not only would that lead probably not have flown if written by a male writer (although it would have been interesting to hear how he would have brought up Parker's cup size and if she was proud of it), but I'm not even sure a male writer would have been allowed to write that lead, regardless of the subject's gender. If it were about a woman, he would be labeled sexist. And if it were about a man, well, let's just see how it would read if it focused on Parker's counterpart in Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant, and changed a few words.
Kobe Bryant is beautiful. Breathtaking, really, with flawless skin, endless legs and six-pack abs he is proud of but never flaunts. He is also the best at what he does, a record-setter, a rule-breaker, a redefiner. He is a man who plays like a man amongst boys, if the boys had six-pack abs and flawless skin. He's nice, too. Sweet, even. Kind to animals and children, he is the sort of man who worries about others more than about himself, a saint in high-tops.
The difference, of course, is that Bryant -- or any other male athlete -- doesn't need to flaunt his looks in order to be a superstar who garners endorsements. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Parker and other female athletes in a society that puts more stock in cup sizes and flawless skin than cup wins and flawless records. That's why the mention made sense. It wasn't so much controversial as refreshingly up-front about an issue that Parker and her handlers quite frankly wanted to drive home – Parker is hot, on and off the court.