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Prince Fielder Strips for ESPN The Magazine Body Issue, Internet Jerks Flip Out Over His Belly

ESPN The Magazine‘s annual body issue hits newsstands today, and of of all the covers (featuring Venus Williams, Jamie Anderson, Michael Phelps and a few others), Texas Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder‘s has been getting the most attention, simply because he doesn’t have a six-pack. We guess fat-shaming isn’t limited to women — what a shitty step for gender equality.

Image: ESPN

Image: ESPN

Seeing the player’s tattooed body sans uniform sent the Twitteratti into a fat-shaming frenzy, sparking a fleet of Internet memes, many of which poke fun at Fielder’s weight. He’s pictured as Jabba the Hut, in the midst of mountains of donuts and ice cream, even with cake and cookie emojis superimposed onto his tummy.

Obviously, people find the sight of this athlete’s naked body simply hilariousTMZ caught up with Cuba Gooding, Jr., who compared the image to “two midgets in an arm wrestling contest with a bag of knuckles.” Whatever that means.

Regardless of how you feel about Fielder’s shape, he doesn’t seem to give a damn if his body challenged your personal notions of what an athlete is supposed to look like: “You don’t have to look like an Under Armour mannequin to be an athlete. A lot of people probably think I’m not athletic or don’t even try to work out or whatever, but I do,” he told ESPN. “Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you can’t be an athlete. And just because you work out doesn’t mean you’re going to have a 12-pack. I work out to make sure I can do my job to the best of my ability. Other than that, I’m not going up there trying to be a fitness model.”

Fair enough. But possibly the most bewildering thing about this reaction is that people are even worried about the athleticism of a paid professional baseball player at all. Obviously, the Texas Rangers have deemed Fielder athletic enough to run bases, bat and catch balls. They continue to employ and pay him–wouldn’t a baseball franchise, whose sole purpose is to win games and make money, avoid recruiting someone they don’t think could handle the physicality of the game, much less win? How interesting that the world overlooks Fielder’s toned, strong thighs (mmm…those thighs) and powerful, sturdy batting arms once he takes his clothes off to reveal them.

At the end of the day, whatever you think of Fielder’s body, it’s strong, and it’s helping him rake in the millions. Can he run? Swing a bat? Is he helping win games? Then it’s time to shut up about his belly and let his cover be the beautiful, arresting, even sexy image it is.