Outside of being platforms where people write about sports, Sports Illustrated and Deadspin couldn’t have been more different.

One was founded in the 1950s and set the standard for sports writing in the golden age of magazines.

The other was created more than 50 years later in the digital age and helped create what we know as the modern blogosphere.

One has an alumni list including some of the most famous sportswriters in history.

Frank Deford, Peter Gammons, Sally Jenkins, Jack McCallum, Grant Wahl, and Peter King.

The other feature bylines from an eclectic collection of traditional and non-traditional journalists, future novelists, hot-take artists, and general personalities unafraid to push the boundaries.

Will Leitch, A.J. Daulerio, Drew Magary, Tommy Craggs, Clay Travis (no, seriously), Barry Petchesky and Laura Wagner.

One wrote flowery behind-the-scenes features on the biggest athletes, coaches, and games, largely doing so based on unprecedented access.

The other wrote about Brett Favre’s penis, scathing takedowns of ESPN, Manti Te’o’s fake dead girlfriend, and sometimes even itself. All while boasting about its lack of “access, favor or discretion.”

And yet, in many ways, Deadspin and Sports Illustrated now find themselves having suffered the same fate. Monday’s news that Deadspin had been sold to a company called Lineup Publishing with none of its staff members retained felt eerily reminiscent of the uncertainty that SI now faces after owner Authentic Brands Group revoked the company’s license from publisher The Arena Group in January.

While there are no plans for SI to stop publishing (The Arena Group remains its publisher, for now), it’s hard to have much confidence in it becoming anything but an even further diminished version of itself. As has been covered elsewhere, Authentic Brands Group appears to be much more interested in using the Sports Illustrated name to license the rights to parties and merchandise, leaving the actual backbone of the brand — the publication — to suffer.

Likewise, Deadspin has effectively been reduced to intellectual property. Considering how little is known about its new parent company — whose website was registered just last week — it’s impossible to know what the future for Deadspin holds. But the reality is that Deadspin hasn’t really been Deadspin since 2019 when its entire staff resigned in protest of Barry Petchesky’s firing.

(For that, and other memories from Deadspin’s glory days, check out Andrew Bucholtz’s timeline here).

To be frank, considering that the current iteration of Deadspin only seems to attract attention when it makes a mistake (of which there have been many), I was surprised G/O Media was even able to facilitate a sale. I’d be interested to learn the price tag and what Lineup Publishing plans to do with the outlet/brand moving forward.

But that’s beside the point.

The fact is, despite their vast differences, Deadspin and Sports Illustrated both wound up in the same place. Regardless of your opinion of either outlet, it would be impossible to argue that both of their reputations haven’t been reduced to a fraction of what they were just five years ago. And the similarities in their respective demises have been especially jarring, right down to both companies having experimented with AI.

So how did we get here?

Obviously, it’s no secret that the sports media landscape is in a dark place — so much so that it was a welcome surprise when Deadspin alum Tim Marchman announced on Monday that he has been hired by Front Office Sports weeks after being laid off by Vice Media.

Both Sports Illustrated and Deadspin had their own fork-in-the-road moments. For SI, it was Time Inc.’s sale to the Meredith Corporation resulting in SI being sold to ABG. For Deadspin, it was Gawker’s bankruptcy following the Hulk Hogan trial and the years of instability that ensued.

But considering the state of the industry, this might have always been the end game for both of them. And if anything, it speaks to their previous reputations that they were able to be sold — even if just as IP — in their current respective states.

Most outlets, however, won’t be as fortunate. Nor is any of this a consolation to the writers and editors impacted — at SI, Deadspin, and elsewhere — and the audiences they serve.

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.