Discussing the Candace Parker Cover with ESPN The Magazine Editor-in-Chief Gary Belsky
By Adena Andrews, for WNBA.com
Making history is nothing new for Candace Parker, one of the premier players in the WNBA. Just recently Parker, the 22-year-old mom to be, made history by becoming the first pregnant woman on the cover of a men’s sports magazine, ESPN The Magazine. WNBA.com caught up with Editor-in-Chief of the magazine, Gary Belsky, to ask him about this historic move for his magazine and women’s sports.
WNBA.com: What was the thought process behind putting Candace Parker on the cover of the Magazine?
The Mag: She is a major breakthrough star and it’s clear that some of the major marketers in the country think that too. And it’s rare that an athlete gets that kind of attention from companies such as McDonald's, Gatorade and adidas. Especially when that athlete is in a sport that is somewhat challenged in the ratings area.
We shot Candace for the cover in December and we figured it would go nicely with our Women’s History Month in March. Then after she announced she was pregnant we realized we couldn’t have her on the cover of the magazine in March when she would be seven months pregnant. So we went back to them and said we want to shoot Candace for the magazine pregnant. Her agent was a little reserved at first, but it worked out.
WNBA.com: What would you have to say to a reader who is saying “Aww man, ESPN The Mag went all chick flick on me this week. I could have picked up Oprah magazine if I wanted to read about a pregnant chick?”
The Mag: First of all, Candace is a great athlete and a knockout. To be honest that is not a reason we would ever put someone on the cover but we are a men’s magazine and we know that men like to look at good-looking athletes. Also, very often we try to surprise our readers.
We want to surprise you when you open up your mailbox and instead of seeing some jock in a jersey in a sports pose, you would see one of the best athletes in the world except she is pregnant.
There may be some of our readers who want to see Manny Ramirez and Chad Johnson on the cover, but we come out every two weeks and they can see something else on the cover then.
WNBA.com: Were there any reservations in the office about putting her on the cover?
The Mag: Some people thought we should do it and some people thought we shouldn’t give it a try. But there was a consensus to do it and I wanted to do it.
This is a magazine that makes its living by predicting the future and looking forward. We are all about what’s next. And that automatically means that we have made a contract with our readers and the rest of the country that sometimes we are going to do stuff that is wrong or dumb or stupid. But we are never going to have you think that we are boring.
WNBA.com: There was lots of talk about Candace’s bra size at the start of the story. I’m sure that was a first for The Mag.
The Mag: Well the bra cup talk was acceptable because it was our writer and Candace, two women, talking about it and they felt comfortable. It’s not the worst thing in the world in a men’s magazine to talk about things like that. Plus, I understand that some young men are interested in things like that.
WNBA.com: What is the one statement The Mag wanted to make with Candace on the cover and in the story?
The Mag: One of the points of the story and the cover is that we want women to know that you can have a baby and still be an athlete at the highest level.
We don’t have any problem when a young man becomes a dad so we shouldn’t have any problem when a young woman becomes a mom even if it derails her athletic career for a few months. We are talking about women who are serious athletes so it wouldn’t derail their career for too long.
I have a couple of nieces who are very good athletes and this cover tells them and every other girl out there that there is nothing that can keep you off the cover of ESPN The Magazine if you are a woman and a good athlete. That’s the ultimate message.
WNBA.com: Is Candace Parker the next female Michael Jordan?
The Mag: Is she the next Mia Hamm is how I see it. I asked my sister “Do you know who Mia Hamm is?” and she said “Yeah she’s that soccer player” and she said some other good things about her. Then I said “Have you ever seen her play” and my sister said no. Then I said “Do you know who Candace Parker is?” and she said “No, who is that?" I said you will know in a year. Because I think that is how good this girl is.