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'Sports Illustrated' to lay off most of its staff amid severed licensing deal

A George Mason University fan holds up the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine at a send-off for the team, on March 29, 2006, in Fairfax, Va. The union representing the magazine's staff said that SI's publisher plans to cut "a significant number, possibly all" of its union-represented staff.
Lawrence Jackson
/
AP
A George Mason University fan holds up the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine at a send-off for the team, on March 29, 2006, in Fairfax, Va. The union representing the magazine's staff said that SI's publisher plans to cut "a significant number, possibly all" of its union-represented staff.

Updated January 19, 2024 at 5:31 PM ET

The publisher of Sports Illustrated is planning to lay off most — and possibly all — of its journalists on staff, after failing to pay its licensing fees to the magazine's parent company.

Authentic Brands Group, the magazine's owner, said in a statement that it ended its licensing agreement with The Arena Group, the magazine's publisher, to publish Sports Illustrated, but that it remained committed to the 70-year-old magazine's continued publication.

"We are confident that going forward the brand will continue to evolve and grow in a way that serves sports news readers, sports fans, and consumers," it added in the statement.

Authentic said it terminated the deal on Thursday "as a result of the company's failure to pay its quarterly license fee despite being given a notice of breach and an opportunity to cure the breach."

The Arena Group said in a statement that despite its revoked publishing license, it is in talks with Authentic and will continue to produce Sports Illustrated "until this is resolved."

The union that represents 82 Sports Illustrated employees, or about 80% of the magazine's staff, said in a statement on Friday that all its union-represented staff members were at risk of being laid off.

"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.

The layoff news comes a day after publisher The Arena Group announced a "significant reduction"of its 100-member workforce, citing "substantial debt" and missed payments.

Front Office Sports, which first reported news of the mass layoffs, said the company recently missed a $2.8 million payment to Authentic.

Sports Illustrated grabbed headlines in November when reports surfaced with accusations that it had published stories generated through artificial intelligence under the names and photos of fake journalists.

It's the latest major journalism publication to face staff cuts, falling on the same day that employees at the Los Angeles Times are staging a walkout in protest of planned layoffs. Earlier this week, Condé Nast announced that it's cutting staff at Pitchfork as part of a restructuring that will roll the music website into GQ magazine.

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