Fat Shaming on the Football Field

Written by MEDA Undergraduate Intern, Gabrielle Silva 

eddie lacyFall has finally made its return, and though the temperatures remain high, all of the traditional Fall favorites are in full swing.  From pumpkin spice to Halloween decor, people are embracing the season. For many, Fall also brings the long awaited return of football season.  Whether you’re a fan or not, you can’t help but notice its return.  Football season is almost like a part of our culture. For the next few months it will dominate the media, and we’ll hear about players, games, wins, losses, injuries, scandals, and more, but there’s one thing most won’t be talking about, and that’s football, and the high prevalence of fat shaming against players that occurs.

In a recent article on ESPN, Eddie Lacey, from the Seattle Seahawks opens about the chronic fat shaming he has endured throughout his career as professional football player. Lacey describes the constant barrage of fat jokes, and body comments he faces every day through social media, and interviews, and even in public appearances.  Throughout the article he opens up about feeling like his weight is all people focus on, and how that has affected him emotionally.  Despite being a very successful athlete, Lacey discusses feeling like his talent and success are often overlooked because of the public’s fixation on his weight.  He goes onto to talk about how he can’t even post on social media without getting at least a few fat jokes in response.  Lacey says, “Like I could tweet, ‘Today is a beautiful day!’ and someone would be like, ‘Oh yeah? You fat.’ I sit there and wonder: ‘What do you get out of that?’”

The athlete has been dealing with comments like those for years.  Internet trolls would scroll through his twitter looking for places to slip in a fat joke.  Others actually made several very hurtful memes about Lacey and circulated them across the internet.  He shares he feels as if the fat shaming he faces is inescapable, it seems to follow him wherever he goes, or whenever he opens up an app on his phone there’ll be a new comment about his weight from yet another person.  Though Lacey’s struggle with fat shaming has been so public, it’s not a subject that is ever talked about in the football world.  Though it should be, because sadly, Lacey is not the only pro football player to experience brutal fat-shaming on a daily basis.  However, because society puts a certain pressure on players to be tough, and never show their true feelings, the harm and hurt that comes with fat shaming gets swept under the rug, and these players are forced to deal in silence with the negativity they face from the public everyday.

From high school to the pros fat-shaming is an unfortunately common experience.  In my high school days, I was a member of the color guard, and I was expected to be at every home football game.  At those games, I remember witnessing many instances of fat-shaming against our school’s players.  They were expected to laugh it off, and be unperturbed by the unwarranted comments about their bodies.  Players literally grow up with this fat-shaming culture, and often come to expect it as part of playing football.  This shouldn’t be the case.  Players should not have to undergo bullying and body-shaming while playing the sport they love.  Just because these athletes are often perceived as emotionless, and immune to the negativity doesn’t mean they actually are.

Fat-shaming hurts no matter who you are, which is why it’s so great that Lacey chose to open up about it.  Hopefully, his candidness with ESPN will spark a much needed discussion about the undue prevalence of fat-shaming in the sport of football.  It is also a hope that more athletes from school age to the pros will be able to speak out and share their experiences to begin to create a more accepting culture.  One that focuses on the whole person, and not their weight, because after all, weight does not equal worth.

 

References:

Van Valkenburg, K. (2017, September 20). ‘You Just Can’t Shake It’. ESPN. Retrieved from http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/20756278/seattle-seahawks-eddie-lacy-opens-public-struggle-weight