ESPN magazine has released its tenth annual Body Issue, spotlighting the nude forms of 16 of the world’s top athletes. And this year’s lineup is more inclusive than ever.
LGBTQ athletes who stripped down include gay Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon, lesbian WNBA player Sue Bird, and her partner, soccer star Megan Rapinoe. Bird and Rapinoe’s print cover marks the first time a queer couple has covered the Body Issue.
“It’s pretty amazing to think about [being on the cover of the Body Issue], especially in the times we’re in,” Rapinoe, a midfielder for the Seattle Reign FC, told the magazine. “Just think of how far we’ve come, but also the current climate. Not only are we female athletes, but we’re dating as well. It’s kind of badass.”
Rippon, who made Olympic history when he became the first openly gay male athlete to qualify for the Winter Games, also reflected on how far he’s come: “I couldn’t have done this [shoot] while I was in the closet. I think that, with my experience of coming out, I felt so liberated in so many ways.”
Launched in 2008, the Body Issue’s 10 limited-edition covers are ESPN’s way of celebrating the athletic form. “The goal has always been for us to celebrate the athletic form—in every shape and size—and to allow people to stop and marvel at the works of art these bodies truly are,” Alison Overholt, editor in chief of the magazine, said in a statement. In the past, ESPN has spotlighted various LGBTQ athletes in the annual feature, including transgender duathlete Chris Mosier in 2016.
The print editions of the Body Issue hit stands on June 29. In the meantime, find the full lineup of Body Issue athletes online at ESPN.