The entire staff of Sports Illustrated has been dismissed by the owner, raising concerns about the future of the magazine that has been in existence for almost 70 years.
According to Front Office Sports, the licensing group that owns the sports magazine has decided to end its agreement with The Arena Group, the publisher of the magazine. This decision comes after Arena failed to make a payment of $2.8 million, which violated the terms of the licensing deal.
In 2019, Authentic acquired Sports Illustrated from Meredith for $10 million. If the magazine continues to be published, it will celebrate its 70th anniversary this August.
An email announcing the decision says in part, “We were notified by Authentic Brands Group (ABG) that the license under which the Arena Group operates the Sports Illustrated (SI) brand and SI-related properties had been officially revoked by ABG. As a result of this license revocation, we will be laying off staff that work on the SI brand.”
“Some employees will be terminated immediately,” the statement continued, “and paid in lieu of the applicable notice period under the [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.”
The magazine’s employees, represented by the union, issued a demand for Arena to persist in publishing Sports Illustrated.
“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. It is a fight we will continue,” wrote Mitch Goldich, NFL editor and unit chair.
Our statement on today’s mass layoffs at Sports Illustrated pic.twitter.com/tQjJdoHP4p
— Sports Illustrated Union (@si_union) January 19, 2024
Authentic has reportedly been in contact with its various publications to discuss future plans following the appointment of Manoj Bhargava, the founder of 5-Hour Energy, as the new leader of the publisher and licensing company. The specific intentions of Authentic regarding Sports Illustrated and Arena remain uncertain. It is unclear whether Authentic will acquire Sports Illustrated and discontinue Arena, or if Arena will have the opportunity to renegotiate its agreement. Previously known as Maven until 2021, Arena had agreed to a 10-year licensing deal worth $45 million with Authentic.
However, it seems that Authentic has expressed dissatisfaction with the disorderly operations of the sports magazine. These issues include frequent changes in leadership, significant staff layoffs, controversies surrounding articles generated by artificial intelligence, and a focus on featuring plus-sized models in the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
2022: Sports Illustrated puts an obese woman on the cover.
2023: Sports Illustrated puts a trans woman on the cover.
2024: Sports Illustrated fires their entire staff.
Go woke, go broke? pic.twitter.com/Y3ymdMP4ss
— OutKick (@Outkick) January 19, 2024