Sports Illustrated to lay off entire staff amid publisher’s termination

credit: Shutterstock
credit: Shutterstock

Decorated sports magazine Sports Illustrated has informed its staff base that it will be laying off employees that work on the publication. 

An email was sent out by Authentic – licence holder of the sports magazine – to Sports Illustrated staff last Friday confirming that mass layoffs will be made due to terminating the agreement of licence holder The Arena Group – the print and digital publisher.  

Authentic stated in the email: “We were notified by Authentic Brands Group (ABG) that the licence under which the Arena Group operates the Sports Illustrated (SI) brand and SI related properties has been officially revoked by ABG. As a result of this licence revocation, we will be laying off staff that work on the SI brand.”

“Some employees will be terminated immediately, and paid in lieu of the applicable notice period under 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 news of the layoffs comes several weeks after Arena failed to make a $3.75m payment to Authentic which breached its licensing agreement, ultimately being terminated. 

It remains unclear however if Authentic will look to renegotiate with Arena or look for a new licence partner. According to Front Office Sports, the Sports Illustrated licence holder had been exploring and reaching out to several potential companies to replace Arena. 

Front Office Sports detailed further that Authentic’s ambition is to progress with the renegotiate period “as quickly as possible”. 

“We are committed to ensuring that the traditional ad-supported Sports Illustrated media pillar has best in class stewardship to preserve the complete integrity of the brand’s legacy,” stated Authentic. 

One element of this shift to Sports Illustrated is Authentic’s belief that the sports publication will go through “necessary evolution”. 

Arena has reportedly drawn the ire of Authentic following previous layoffs at Sports Illustrated, as well as changes to senior leadership roles. 

Whilst there is optimism on Authentic’s part to move the publication into a new direction, the news of the mass amount of layoffs spell a certain amount of jeopardy. 

With the likes of Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and LeBron James all adorning the cover of Sports Illustrated issues, the sports magazine has been a staple of US sports since 1954. 

The Sports Illustrated Guild wrote on X upon the news of the layoffs: “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.”

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