Sports Illustrated

By Connor Dullinger

On Friday, more than 100 employees or about 33 percent of the current workforce at Sports Illustrated were fired. Some of these firings were scheduled to occur immediately, and there is also the potential for the entire staff of the historic sports media outlet to be laid off in the next three months.

The reasoning for these layoffs is because Authentic, the licensing group that bought Sports Illustrated for $110 million five years ago terminated its agreement with The Arena Group, the publisher of Sports Illustrated. The agreement was terminated because The Arena Group missed a $3.75 million payment to Authentic which breached the agreement they made back in 2019.

Sports Illustrated, an American sports magazine, originated in August of 1954 and was developed by Henry Luce, the creator of Time magazine. The magazine was originally Luce’s attempt at diversifying his publications. It was not until 1960, when Andre Laguerre took over as the managing editor, that the historic outlet really started to gain traction. Laguerre increased the viewership and profits of the outlet by focusing on mainstream sports that people watch on their television every night. SI evolved to earn billions in profit, millions in viewership, and offshoot magazines, such as, Sports Illustrated Kids and Sports Illustrated Women. 

As Sports Illustrated gained popularity, the magazines became notorious for their covers which featured famous athletes, moments, and events. Examples of covers include the Dream Team, the Philly Special, and the iconic “Chosen One” cover for then high school phenom Lebron James. Furthermore, one of Sports Illustrated’s most famous concepts was its “Body Issue” concept, which showcased famous athletes posing naked and allowed for them to open up emotionally and share their stories. 

Once considered the standard and staple of sports journalism due to its excellence in photography as well as writing the layoffs. SI was a weekly publication until it became biweekly in 2018. SI then became a monthly publication in 2020 and has been since. The magazine has been read widely across the United States and across all age groups for its excellence in not just telling you who won but giving you an in-depth examination into why and how someone won. It was also widely seen as a great outlet for readers and fans to gain an insight into the personal side of athletes.

While the story of the massive layoffs is tragic, it is not the first bump in the road that Sports Illustrated has experienced in recent years. In 2019, the company laid off 30 percent of its staff. In November, it was revealed that the Sports Illustrated website published articles that were AI-generated and included names and biographies of writers that were not real. Additionally, former CEO Ross Levinsohn was fired last December 

Sports personalities and figures across the industry were disappointed by the news and praised Sports Illustrated for its importance in the sports world for so many decades.

At its peak and even for a while after, Sports Illustrated was an institution,” ESPN writer and reporter Adam Schefter said. “Its covers, and coverage, were legendary. So much great work was done there. And now, it’s the end. A horrible day for the employees that work there.”

Schefter was not the only one to praise the history of Sports Illustrated and express disappointment in its apparent demise .

“Before the internet, publications like Sports Illustrated would provide unique stories to people who didn’t necessarily live in those areas,” NY Daily News reporter Antwan V. Staley said. “SI was the holy grail of sports journalism. It really is a sad day for the industry.”

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