Sports Illustrated, the venerable bible of sports journalism, has been in decline for years, as the internet annihilated print magazines and cost-cutting turned the weekly publication into a monthly and whittled its staff. But on Friday, the magazine received perhaps its toughest blow yet.
The company that publishes Sports Illustrated said in an email to employees that it was laying off many of them, leaving in doubt what lies ahead for the publication.
The move came after the Arena Group, which publishes the magazine and website under a complicated management structure, had its license to operate the publication revoked.
Reporters and editors for Sports Illustrated were asked on Friday to attend a Zoom call at 2 p.m. Eastern time. It lasted just seven minutes. On the call, Jay Frankl, the Arena Group’s newly hired chief business transformation officer, said, “We will continue to produce the Sports Illustrated brand and online content until the situation is fully resolved,” according to a recording of the meeting heard by The New York Times. No questions were taken.
Some Sports Illustrated staff members received emails with immediate layoff notices, while others were told in further Zoom meetings that they would keep their jobs for at least 90 days. (Roughly 100 journalists work for Sports Illustrated.) Arena Group’s executives told Sports Illustrated staff members they planned on continuing to publish the magazine and website, despite having their license to operate the publication revoked. But it was not immediately clear how that would work. It was also unclear whether the magazine’s owner, Authentic Brands Group, would strike a new agreement with the Arena Group or find a new company to operate it.
But it seems certain that even if Sports Illustrated survives in some form, it will be severely diminished.