Sports Illustrated, the foremost sports journalism outlet and purveyor of some of the world’s best sports photography, has reportedly laid off many staffers.
According to the publication’s union, Sports Illustrated employees were notified today that the publication’s owner, The Arena Group, plans to lay off “a significant number, possibly all,” of the unionized writers.
“This is another difficult day in what has been a difficult four years for Sports Illustrated under Arena Group (previously The Maven) stewardship. We are calling on Authentic Brands Group (ABG) to ensure the continued publication of SI and allow it to serve our audience in the way it has for nearly 70 years,” the union writes on X, formerly Twitter. Its entire statement is seen below.
Our statement on today’s mass layoffs at Sports Illustrated pic.twitter.com/tQjJdoHP4p
— Sports Illustrated Union (@si_union) January 19, 2024
The Wall Street Journal reports that Sports Illustrated has more than 80 unionized employees.
The sad situation is a complicated one. Arena Group, SI‘s publisher, lost the license to publish Sports Illustrated following a missed payment to its licensor, Authentic Brands Group.
ABG notified Arena Group on Thursday that the license agreement was being terminated as a result. Arena also missed an interest payment on its debt, held by Renew Group Private Limited. Per WSJ, Arena is also on the hook for a $45 million termination fee.
Arena says it is discussing the license agreement with ABG and would be cutting about one-third of its workforce, more than 100 employees, due to the complex economic landscape and the terminated licensing agreement.
Sports Illustrated debuted in 1954 as part of the then-massive Time media empire. Throughout its history, SI has delivered many of the most incredible and iconic sports photos.
Facing difficulties adapting to the internet age, Time Inc. sold SI to the magazine publisher Meredith Corporation in 2018. Meredith quickly offloaded its new asset the following year, selling it to ABG.
ABG had big plans to milk the SI brand for all it was worth while licensing out publishing rights to Sports Illustrated to Arena Group for $15 million a year, according to The Washington Post.
SI has provided the world countless brilliant sports images and stories throughout its nearly 70-year run, and it will be a shame if this is how it all ends.