5. Vogue (April, 2008)
One of the more recent covers to illicit controversy was the Vogue cover with basketball superstar LeBron James who shares the April cover of the magazine with supermodel Gisele Bundchen. The controversy stems from the opinion that his screaming face and cradling of a blond woman has racial overtones in its resemblance to the movie poster of King Kong and Fay Wray.
4. Art Monthly (July, 2008)
Art Monthly, Australia magazine sparked outrage over naked images of children by publishing an image of a six-year-old Olympia Nelson on its July cover and two shots inside. The magazine’s editors said the images were chosen as a protest against an uproar over similar pictures by artist Bill Henson. The shot of Olympia was taken in 2003 by her mother, Melbourne photographer Polixeni Papapetrou.
I have blurred portions of the photo as not to offend any readers. You can see the unedited version on the Art Monthly site.
3. Playboy (October 1971)
While many Playboy covers can be considered controversial, this cover makes the list for breaking the color barrier which features an African-American on the cover for the first time. Darine Stern sits in a Playboy bunny chair on this October 1971 Playboy cover.
2. Golfweek (January, 2008)
Even in today’s more enlightened age Golfweek pushed the envelope a little too far. On Jan. 19, 2008 Golfweek magazine chose the image of noose to illustrate a story about a TV anchor’s racially tinged comments, but the graphically powerful photo of a noose became a controversy all its own. The editor was fired after a public backlash of negative comments.
1. Esquire (April 1968)
When it comes to controversial covers it helps to start with a controversial personality and Muhammad Ali was never one to hold his tongue or his opinions. In this April 1968 Esquire magazine cover, “The Greatest Of All Time” is depicted as the martyred Saint Sebastian, patron saint of athletes. St. Sebastian was pierced with arrows for his religious beliefs. Ali is similarly pierced by six arrows, as Esquire defended his refusal to be drafted into the U.S. Army because of his own religious beliefs. He was convicted of violating the Selective Service Act and stripped of his title.