Tennessee lawmaker once tried to cover up Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue

Sports Illustrated

As the kickoff of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue takes over several blocks of downtown Nashville this week, it brings back memories of a Tennessee lawmaker who once wanted to cover up the magazine’s provocative cover of the annual edition.

It was 1997 and east Tennessee lawmaker Doug Gunnels sponsored a bill that would have required the Sport Illustrated swimsuit issue to be displayed in stores with a wrapper on it, like men’s magazines Playboy or Penthouse.

“This is see through right here,” Rep. Gunnels told News 2 18 years ago as he pointed to several pages of the of the swimsuit issue from his legislative office.

“We are talking about nine or 10 year olds going up to a magazine rack and this is what he gets,” he said.

The bill went nowhere, but the measure did get giggles when it came up in a committee chaired by then-Montgomery County Representative Kim McMillan, who is now the mayor of Clarksville.

“The question was asked about when the swimsuit edition comes out,” laughed McMillan back in a March 1997 committee.

“The chair does not know,” she responded to a room full of muffled guffaws.

Gunnels, who left his House seat in 2000, now works as a liaison between a state agency and the legislature.

He good-naturedly preferred not comment about his 1997 bill and the Sports Illustrated celebration now on the Nashville downtown streets, but he did know the event was in town.

With as many Sports Illustrated models roaming Nashville this week as country stars, we thought it would fun if one of them commented about how things have changed.

“You know what? That would have definitely been a little controversy,” said Louisiana native Ariel Meredith, who has numerous appearances in the swimsuit issue.

“To know that they just wanted to put it in the Playboy section, it’s like really? Come on ,that was a gorgeous cover,” Meredith said of the 1997 issue.

That cover with Tyra Banks is similar to this year’s cover, and there’s been no talk on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill of covering it up or putting it in wraps.

As for the 1997 bill, it died in committee.

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