Rick Reilly EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – FEBRUARY 02: Sports writer Rick Reilly is shown prior to the start of Super Bowl XLVIII between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Many of The Athletic’s recent hires have been Sports Illustrated alums, especially since former SI group editorial director Paul Fichtenbaum landed there last summer. They continued that trend Wednesday with the hire of one of the most prominent ex-SI writers, but someone whose recent prominence hasn’t come for anything positive: Rick Reilly.

Reilly tweeted about his first piece there Wednesday, complete with the requisite subscription promo:


Reilly wrote for SI from 1985 to 2008, when he left for ESPN and a contract reportedly worth up to $3 million annually. But his ESPN contributions worked out so poorly that said contract became one of the go-to standards for bad sports media contracts, and he mostly made headlines for things that didn’t work out, such as an interview show that was yanked after 13 episodes, repeated self-plagiarism, misquotes (of his own father-in-law, even), his attempt to get on-air credit for something he didn’t report, and a whole lot of terrible tweets.

The Worldwide Leader extended his contract in 2013 for some reason, but he gradually gave up or lost role after role following that, from columns to Monday Night Countdown features. And he hadn’t been heard from in a while, so the world probably presumed he was sitting on a beach crafting dental puns. But for some reason, The Athletic  decided he’s a valuable addition, and they’re since getting clowned on for it:





An overall challenge with The Athletic is that they’re trying to attract so many different kinds of sports fans that they’re certain to hire some personalities some fans can’t stand. And there’s always the argument that readers don’t have to read everything on the site (which is surely impossible at this point anyway, given how many people The Athletic has hired), and that they can choose what’s relevant to them and ignore the rest.

But going with a personality who draws as much criticism and negativity as Reilly is certainly a bold move. It’s possible that this could build a following with an older audience who fondly remembers Reilly’s SI work, but it’s also possible that this will turn off a lot of people who remember what he’s done recently. Bringing in a controversial figure like Reilly is certainly a notable move for the site, and it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.