Barkley’s body of work just starting

So far Saquon Barkley has embraced, and seemingly thrived in, the media spotlight provided by his presence on the New York Giants’ roster.

This week the former Penn State standout appeared in ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue,” with those images also available online. He was also recorded to be included in the show opening for “Sunday Night Football” on NBC this season.

Those two things are just a small portion of the media exposure he’s getting before his rookie season begins.

He and his management team have not said yes to everything they’ve been presented, and they’ve managed the rollout of his brand well so far. Plus, Barkley’s interactions with the media and his seemingly genuine good-guy appeal, have given him some pubic relations capital to ease any potential hiccups along the way.

Even before the NFL Draft, Barkley had signed an apparel and shoe deal with Nike and a trading cards and memorabilia deal with Panini America.

Body business

Along with Barkley, the 15 others (eight women, eight men) included in ESPN’s “Body Issue” represent 10 different sports and range in age from 21 to 63.

They women are: Sue Bird, basketball; Lauren Chamberlain, softball; Jessie Diggins, cross country skiing; Tori Bowie, track; Crystal Dunn, soccer; Charlotte Flair, WWE; Megan Rapinoe, soccer; and Breanna Stewart, basketball.

The men are: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, soccer; Dallas Keuchel, baseball; Greg Norman, golf; Yasiel Puig, baseball; Jerry Rice, football; Adam Rippon, figure skating; and Karl-Anthony Towns, basketball.

This year marks the 10th anniversary for the photo series, which was initially launched, in part, as ESPN’s take on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

However, with a mix of female and male photos as well as stories about sports performance, equality or something along those lines, the ESPN effort has found a somewhat more positive response.

While SI’s effort is always financially successful, it is also always criticized for objectifying those who participate in the issue (and accompanying web sites, calendar and other products) that comes out each February.

Tuner tidbits

n With the recent legislation that makes sports betting legal across the country, the next area of growth will be TV shows about gambling. ESPN, Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network already have plans in the work for gambling-related shows to debut this year.

n It might not seem like a super-big-name signing, but ESPN recently reached a multi-year extension with Adnan Virk that gives the network both credibility and stability. The hard-working and versatile Virk can serve as a host or play-by-play talent. He hosts “College Football Final” and “Baseball Tonight” and also does well with college basketball, hockey and as a talk-radio guest host. He’s better on radio than some of the network’s full-time talent. Plus, Virk brings more than sports, including his interest in movies, without being sophomoric or silly. He’s the kind of “glue guy” — multitalented without needing to be the whole show himself — who makes ESPN and those he works with better.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

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