Authentic Brands Group has terminated Sports Illustrated’s license to publish due to a missed payment, leading to the elimination of all staff positions at the iconic sports publication following a warning issued earlier in the month by Authentic Brands Group.
The entire staff of Sports Illustrated, a staple in print and online sports journalism for 70 years, was informed on Friday that their jobs were being cut. The Arena Group, which has managed Sports Illustrated under a licensing agreement since 2019, disclosed in a memo to employees the termination of their roles, sparking widespread outrage on social media.
“We appreciate the work and efforts of everyone who has contributed to the SI brand and business,” the memo from The Arena Group stated.
In response to this development, the Sports Illustrated Union and The NewsGuild of New York expressed their commitment to their colleagues.
“We will fight for every one of our colleagues,” they vowed in a statement.
The Arena Group, in a filing with the SEC earlier this month, admitted to failing to make a quarterly payment of approximately $3.75 million. As a result, Authentic Brands issued a notice of breach with the intention to terminate the license. The Arena Group mentioned that discussions with the licensor were ongoing.
Authentic Brands did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Deadline.
According to the internal memo from The Arena Group, some workers will be terminated immediately, while others will continue working during the legally required notice period. All affected employees will receive severance pay.
Sports Illustrated has faced challenges since leaving its longtime home at Time Inc. Time Warner’s sale of Time Inc. to Meredith led to the divestiture of major brands like Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune. The magazine, known for its legendary contributors and groundbreaking sports photography, has struggled to adapt to the digital era. It has been overshadowed by online competitors and social media, leaving it in a position of playing catch-up.
Ross Levinsohn, the former CEO of The Arena Group, was ousted in December following the revelation that Sports Illustrated had relied on AI-generated content, falsely attributed to human writers. This incident added to the publication’s challenges in maintaining its esteemed position in sports journalism.
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