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Heads Roll (Eyes, Too) in Wake of Sports Illustrated AI Fiasco

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.

Comments (19)

    Sports Illustrated being controlled by the 5-Hour Energy Guy is almost too perfect a distillation of the wasteland sports media has become.

    It’s a “meh” story at some point but also still hits hard, as you alluded to in your last installment about this. I grew up on SI and hate to see it go but man, they’ve been a train wreck lately.

    As a kid, I would have loved to subscribe to Sports Illustrated, bu because we didn’t have much money, all we could afford was Sport. For me, IS was always an aspiration that was out of reach. It’s sad to see it die, but it deserves to.

    Hey, don’t sell Sport short — at least when I was reading it in the 60s and 70s it was a terrific publication in its own right. The big advantage SI had over Sport was being weekly instead of monthly, but Sport was great.

    Human sacrifices, plain and simple. Also keep in mind that they want to recoup their investment ASAP. Two fewer executives sucking up funds will aid in that cause. (Yes, that sounds callous and cynical. And it’s precisely the way some of these outlets “work.”)

    I’m reminded of the advice we managers were given at the (very extinct) Musicland Group: “Work smarter, not harder”. Like we had magic wands that were capable of raising our I.Q.s.

    Yes, that was Paul’s point. In SI’s on-going descent in reputability, they might as well just sell the whole operation off right now to the lowest-of-the-low possible owners…those being Barstool or DraftKings.

    Sad, sad, sad. To me SI was the summum in sports writing back in the 80s and 90s. Head and shoulders above the rest. Look at it now.

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