Sports Illustrated’s future in jeopardy as iconic brand plans to lay off ‘significant’ amount of staff, union

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A significant number of Sports Illustrated staff members were notified by the outlet’s publisher that they would be laid off. The move puts the future of the iconic sports publication that has been widely considered the gold standard of sports journalism for nearly seven decades in jeopardy.

The Arena Group, which operates Sports Illustrated and related properties emailed employees on Friday, notifying them that Authentic Brands Group has revoked its marketing license.

“As a result of this license revocation, we will be laying off staff that work on the SI brand,” the email said.

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Sports Illustrated’s employee union said in a statement that the layoffs would be a significant number, and possibly all, of the NewsGuild workers represented.

“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,” Mitch Goldich, NFL editor and unit chair, said in a statement.

The guild’s statement also called for 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.”

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The Arena Group acquired publishing rights from ABG in 2019 for at least 10 years. The group’s stewardship of SI has had many hurdles since then. In December, it fired chief executive officer Ross Levinsohn when the magazine’s alleged use of AI-generated stories drew public backlash.

LeBron James autographs Sports Illustrated cover

The iconic sports brand has had a rough six years. It was acquired by Meredith Publishing in 2018 as part of the purchase of Time Inc., which started the magazine in 1954.

Less than a year later, Meredith sold the magazine’s intellectual property to Authentic Brands Group for $110 million. ABG owns the intellectual property of many brands and stars, including Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali and Reebok. Fox News Digital contacted Authentic Brands Group for more details but did not immediately receive a response.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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