Every day, Sports Illustrated celebrates the achievements of spectacular athletes. When those athletes are men, a range of body types are honored - from small, slim baseball players to massive, ferocious boxers.
However, Sports Illustrated's most well-known cover trope featuring women - the famous annual Swimsuit Edition - celebrates just one body type.
By perpetuating beauty standards that, let's face it, have little to do with athletic achievement, Sports Illustrated creates an artificial barrier to women who deviate from fashion-model good looks, no matter their sports achievements. It contributes to a sports culture that only rewards beautiful female athletes with the sponsorships and endorsements that give male athletes financial security and the chance to inspire a new generation of young players, while leaving female athletes with other physiques in the dust.
This year, two members of the women's U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team, Sarah Robles and Holley Mangold, live in poverty. Their bodies, perfectly developed for achievement in their field, are nonetheless not the bodies associated with corporate beauty standards. But Sports Illustrated is in a position to change that.
By featuring the U. S. Women's Weightlifting Olympic team on their cover, Sports Illustrated would be making a strong statement confirming their commitment to their true mandate; celebrating the achievements of great athletes, whether they look like swimsuit models or not. The exposure guaranteed by a Sports Illustrated cover would also make a positive difference in the lives of these athletes. And maybe, just maybe, young girls who don't resemble swimsuit models either can be inspired by these women's stories to be physically active, have positive self esteem, and even - who knows? - nurture dreams of future Olympic success.
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