January 23, 2024

Is Sports Illustrated Down for the Count?

The once-iconic magazine has fallen on hard times and can’t seem to pay its bills.

Having dominated the American sports journalism landscape for 70 years, Sports Illustrated is now on the ropes.

On Friday, the magazine’s publisher, the Arena Group, said that it had failed to make its $3.75 million quarterly licensing payment to Authentic Brands Group and announced massive layoffs, saying it would make a “significant reduction” in its workforce of more than 100 staff.

As the New York Post reports: “SI’s unionized workers received a memo Friday telling them ‘some employees will be terminated immediately, and paid in lieu of the 60-day applicable notice period under the [union contract].’ Employees with a last working day of today will be contacted by the People team soon. Other employees will be expected to work through the end of the notice period, and will receive additional information shortly.”

It’s hard to say what brought Sports Illustrated to this point, to this dumpster fire of a once-iconic brand. Was it the sale of the magazine by longtime publisher Time-Life to Meredith and then to Authentic? Was it the gross financial mismanagement? Was it the steady depletion from its ranks of magnificent writers like Frank Deford, Gary Smith, William Nack, Kenny Moore, and Rick Reilly? Was it the increasingly woke journalism? Was it the slow-but-steady destruction of the $1 billion “Swimsuit Issue,” which has been around since 1964 but hasn’t been the same since it began featuring obese women and “transgender” men on its cover in recent years? Setting aside the increasingly lewd objectification of women for just a moment, we think the vast majority of red-blooded teenage American males would much rather gaze upon a cover photo of Kate Upton or Hannah Davis than one featuring the biological male who now insists on being called Leyna Bloom.

Or was it simply that folks in our Internet age got tired of reading sports reportage about a game whose outcome was decided a week ago?

“We have fought together as a union to maintain the standard of this storied publication that we love, and to make sure our workers are treated fairly for the value they bring to this company,” said NFL editor and unit chair Mitch Goldich. “It is a fight we will continue.”

Indeed, perhaps not all is lost. Authentic Brands owns the SI brand and had been licensing it to Arena. And, as the Associated Press reports: “Authentic later said in a statement it intends to keep Sports Illustrated going. The company is negotiating with Arena and other publishing entities to determine who will do that, according to a person with knowledge of the talks who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about them.”

Or perhaps the Sports Illustrated brand will live on in an unpublished form: “In 2022,” writes CNBC, “Authentic announced it had partnered with a developer and a hospitality group to launch Sports Illustrated Resorts, ‘a new premium, lifestyle resort and entertainment destinations.’ The first location has already opened in the Dominican Republic.”

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