Union says mass layoffs hitting Sports Illustrated as news media sheds jobs

Sports Illustrated is getting hit with major layoffs, the venerable publication’s union said Friday.

The cuts affect “a significant number, possibly all” of the magazine and website’s unionized staff, the Sports Illustrated Union and the NewsGuild of New York said in a statement posted to X (formerly Twitter).

The latest layoffs come after Sports Illustrated’s owner, Authentic Brands Group, revoked another company’s publishing license, the union said. Authentic Brands has owned Sports Illustrated since 2019 and has been licensed to Arena Group.

“This is another difficult day in what has been a difficult four years for Sports Illustrated under Arena Group [previously The Maven] stewardship,” the labor groups said in their statement. “We are calling on [Authentic Brands Group] to ensure the continued publication of SI and allow it to serve our audience in the way it has for nearly 70 years.”

Sports Illustrated has long been one of the most recognizable names in media, but like many legacy journalism brands, the publication has faced numerous struggles.

The company in recent months came under fire for publishing articles under the bylines of writers who did not exist. However, it has denied reports that it was using articles that were generated by artificial intelligence.

The news cuts come after the Arena Group on Thursday announced a “significant reduction in its workforce of over 100 employees,” according to a news release.

“The Company, which has substantial debt and recently missed payments, is completing these cost-cutting measures to initiate a transformative shift towards a streamlined business model,” the firm said in its statement.

In another statement Friday, Arena Group said it was in “active discussions” with Authentic Brands, “but we understand we aren’t the only ones. Even though the publishing license has been revoked we will continue to produce Sports Illustrated until this is resolved. We hope to be the company to take SI forward but if not, we are confident that someone will. If it is another business, we will support with the transition so the legacy of Sports Illustrated doesn’t suffer.”

Said Authentic Brands in a separate statement: “Yesterday, The Arena Group’s license to serve as the publisher of Sports Illustrated was terminated 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… 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.”

Arena Group in December ousted its Chief Executive Ross Levinsohn, who once served as publisher of the Los Angeles Times.

News media has suffered from major cost-cutting as companies struggle to make the transition to digital from traditional business models such as print.

NBC News, the Washington Post, Conde Nast and other publishers have also shed staff members. Conde Nast this week said it would fold its taste-making music publication Pitchfork under men’s brand GQ.

The Los Angeles Times newsroom guild on Friday walked out for a one-day strike to protest planned cuts meant to offset financial losses that owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and his family have taken since acquiring the paper nearly six years ago.

The Times disclosed Thursday that substantial layoffs were coming due to a widening budget deficit. The one-day strike represents the newsroom’s first union-organized work stoppage in the paper’s 142-year history. More than 100 members of the staff are expected to be affected by the cuts.

The AP contributed to this report.

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