Sports Illustrated is Laying Off 'a Significant Number, Possibly All' of its Staff and Revoking the Company's License to Operate

Noam Galai. Getty Images.

I suppose we all should've seen this coming. Any major media outlet that begins swirling the drain tends to give off strong signals that it is not long for this world. Like the hot gas that emits from a star when it's on the verge of collapsing into a supernova. 

And Sports Illustrated has been emitting more and more hot gas all the time. (See what I did there? You haven't gotten that kind of word play from SI since Rick Reilly's heyday.) For instance, this from less than two months ago:

Now, it appears, the end is near. Except unlike a dying star, SI is going out not with bang, but a whimper:

Source - On Thursday, the Authentic Brands Group revoked Arena Group’s license to operate the Sports Illustrated brand. On Friday, Arena announced a massive round of layoffs to the SI brand.

First, here’s the letter staffers from SI received, announcing the layoffs.

And the writers' union's predictable response, vowing to fight the decision while demanding management honor the contract and stay in business:


I'm going to have to plead ignorance on the inner workings of SI, it's Management/Labor dynamic, or its financial health. I'm simply  a consumer of its product. Which is to say, an ex-consumer. And therein lies the issue. 

If you're under the age of say, 35, you likely have no idea why this would be a big deal. And you'd be 100% justified in not knowing. You'd have to go back at least 25 years to remember a time when Sports Illustrated was an iconic brand. In fact, it dominated the sports magazine market back when that was a thing. It got some competition here and there. SPORT had a long shelf life. Inside Sports had a bit of a run there for a while. But SI was always King Kong in that arena, and swatted away the competition like little biplanes buzzing around it. 

Even decades after ESPN hit the air, SI was helping to define the zeitgeist. Making the cover meant you'd arrived onto the national scene. It was like Madden covers are today. Except it encompassed all sports and there were 52 of them a year. Plus special editions. Most notably, the one Swimsuit Issue that would be in your mailbox or the newstands in the depth of winter. Like a blossom of summer and sex popping up out of the snow. 

But it was only a matter of time before the internet killed the magazine star. No matter how acclaimed the writers were. No matter how iconic and historic the photography was:

By the 2000s, no one felt like waiting a week to find out what happened or what it looked like in still photos. 

And while some of the coverage on the SI website is still worth reading, it's just another resource among many. It's never stood out from the crowd the way other sites have. It's never been appointment viewing. Something you get in the habit of checking all day every day. Like, for instance, in my totally unbiased opinion, the one you're currently reading. 

Even the more splashy, gimmicky content like the Swimsuit Issue grew tired. They tried to keep it relevant by paying big money to celebrities like Livvy Dunne and Angel Reese to generate buzz:


But it's been a total anachronism in a world where you can pull up an infinite number of photos of these women off their own Instagrams by simply reaching into your pocket. 

So whatever the issues are between SI and its employees, there's yer problem, lady. You had a nice run. But your publication hasn't been relevant in a generation. If not longer. And no amount of using bots to write your shitty articles, bikini photo shoots, business strategies, nor all the contract negotiations in the world, can fix that.