NFL player Vince Wilfork is on the cover of ESPN’s latest “Body Issue.” The 325-pound athlete is one of the best defensive lineman (nosetackle) of the past decade. The 6’2” Florida native gives zero fucks what you think about his weight as he plows through the competition, clearing the 40-yard dash in a mere 5.08 seconds. One might argue that the Houston Texans are not the strongest team in the league, but his individual prowess is difficult to debate.
Wilfork spoke with ESPN’s Morty Ain about posing nude for the issue.
“I just think it’s a good idea for people that are bigger-boned. If people can look at me, a guy that’s 325-plus, doing an issue like this, I’m pretty sure that they might have a little confidence. There will be critics, just like with everything else. I think a lot of people will get a laugh out of it, I’ll tell you that. I’m looking forward to what the locker room’s going to say. But at the end of the day, I’m perfectly fine with who I am as a person and what I have accomplished. It shows a lot of my personality.”
Wilfork still experiences discrimination based on his weight, regardless of his tremendous success as a professional athlete. Let’s break this down: the man gets paid for his athletic prowess, yet thin folks who may actually be sitting on their asses in front of a television or computer screen are still judging the man as a “slob” for his big belly, unwilling to see past it to recognize his incredible athletic feats. Wilfork hopes that by being nude, they will be forced to see his body in a different way.
“A lot of people look at me as a big person. Some people consider me to be obese. Some people consider me fat and sloppy. But I think this shoot will give people a different look at what I am. Everybody knows that I have a big stomach, but I think sometimes that overshadows everything else on my body — from my calves to my back to my shoulders to my biceps, you name it. What people go to the gym and work for, I have. The only thing I don’t have that they got is six-packs. But I really don’t care about six-packs.”
There’s no question that we need to see more plus-size bodies in media as part of a push for overall visible diversity. There needs to be many more strong, happy, large-bodied masculine folks, too. What should be debated, however, is the glorification of strong, large male bodies and the erasure of equally large, strong-bodied woman athletes. Larger women are strong wrestlers, weight lifters, cyclists — but they’re often ignored in issues like these. Once again, no matter how brilliant the woman is in her field, if the male gaze deems her “unfuckable,” she is erased.
Let’s celebrate the fact that Wilfork is a strong, brilliant, big-bodied athlete. However, let’s also demand representation for large-bodied women.
Follow Vince Wilfork and his wins on Twitter.