Saturday 20 January 2024

Sports Illustrated Laying Off ‘Significant Number’ Of Workers, ‘Possibly All’ Writers

 Much of the staff at Sports Illustrated, including possibly all of its writers, received layoff notices on Friday, according to the union representing the workers at the publication. The layoffs come less than two months after the magazine was caught publishing AI-generated stories, authors, and photos.  

The Sports Illustrated Union wrote that on Friday “workers of Sports Illustrated were notified that The Arena Group is planning to lay off a significant number, possibly all, of the Guild-represented workers at SI.” The pending layoffs come after Authentic Brands Group (ABG) revoked The Arena Group’s license “to publish at SI,” the union’s statement added. 

ABG has owned Sports Illustrated since 2019 and sold the publishing rights to The Arena Group, but The Arena Group missed a payment for those rights recently, which resulted in ABG pulling the publishing license, The Washington Post reported

“As a result of this license revocation, we will be laying off staff that work on the SI brand,” a note to staff reportedly read. The note added that some of the staff would be laid off immediately while others would work until the end of the 90-day notice period. 

“This is another difficult day in what has been a difficult four years for Sports Illustrated under Arena Group (previously The Maven) stewardship,” the union said in a statement. “We are calling on ABG to ensure the continued publication of SI and allow it to serve our audience in the way it has for nearly 70 years.”

report by Futurism in November revealed that Sports Illustrated appeared to have been publishing AI-generated content attributed to fake authors — complete with bogus biographies and headshots. When asked about the content by Futurism, Sports Illustrated allegedly deleted the AI-created writers and profiles along with the content generated by AI. Sports Illustrated CEO Ross Levinsohn was then fired by The Arena Group in December. 

The magazine has been one of the most successful sports publications since it was first published in 1954. Sports Illustrated is known for the iconic photos that have graced its covers and for its annual swimsuit issue which was first published in 1964. The magazine faced backlash in 2021 after putting a man who identifies as a woman on the cover of its swimsuit edition, touting model Leyna Bloom as the “first trans person of color to appear on our pages.” Last year, Sports Illustrated featured a transgender model again on its swimsuit edition cover, lauding Kim Petras as “an icon in the LGBTQ+ community.” 


The first issue of Sports Illustrated featured Milwaukee Braves star Eddie Mathews batting at home plate with New York Giants catcher Wes Westrum behind him. The cover of the latest issue showed Michigan’s college football national championship victory over Washington earlier this month. 

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