After the embarrassing but unsurprising disclosure last week that Sports Illustrated had been caught with its hand in the AI cookie jar, two top execs at SI’s dude-bro parent company, The Arena Group, have been canned.
The two sacrificial lambs, as first reported exclusively yesterday by Front Office Sports, are COO Andrew Kraft and president of media Rob Barrett.
But whatever — Kraft and Barrett will be replaced by two fresh bodies who’ll no doubt be more careful to cover their tracks the next time SI decides to engage in ethically dubious behavior. The more interesting part of FOS’s report is the news that the firings were accompanied by a “meandering video call” from The Arena Group’s new majority owner, Manoj Bhargava, who used the occasion to introduce himself to the SI staff.
Bhargava, who purchased a 65% stake in The Arena Group a few months ago, made his fortune as the founder of the dietary supplement 5-Hour Energy, which is almost too perfect for this storyline. His call with the SI staff — details of which were promptly leaked to FOS by one of the attendees — featured such pearls of wisdom as “Stop doing dumb stuff” and “The amount of useless stuff you guys do is staggering,” all of which I’m sure will improve newsroom morale. There was also “a rant about recycling being ‘useless.’”
At this point, SI doesn’t have much further to fall. They should just get it over with and sell the operation to DraftKings or Barstool.