A graphic of some notable Deadspin moments. A graphic of some notable Deadspin moments, including (L to R) founding editor Will Leitch, story subject Manti Te’o, lawsuit plaintiff Terry (“Hulk Hogan”) Bollea, G/O Media CEO JIm Spanfeller, and a Chiefs’ fan the publication accused of wearing blackface.

The news Monday of G/O Media selling the Deadspin domain name to Malta-based Lineup Publishing (which only registered their own website domain Thursday, and has nothing there beyond a contract form) is just the latest in a series of notable transitions for that brand. Founded in 2005 by Will Leitch as the sports site for Nick Denton’s Gawker Media, the almost two decades of publication at Deadspin.com has seen incredible shifts in coverage, tone, and staff, perhaps especially after the 2019 resignations of the entire staff in protest of ownership firing Barry Petchesky and the subsequent hire of replacement writers. Here’s a look at a few of the many memorable Deadspin moments over the years:

2005: Deadspin founded under Will Leitch

As Leitch discussed with AA in 2015, Deadspin came out of him working at the independent journalism site The Black Table. That led to Lockhart Steele, Nick Denton’s No. 2 at Gawker Media, approaching him around running a gambling site. Leitch responded with a pitch for a sports site, and Gawker brass initially liked the idea but tried to get bigger names to headline it. When that didn’t work out, they got Leitch to do it.

Leitch and Rick Chandler quickly made a mark, first publishing posts for no one through July and August 2005 as practice, then turning the site live in September 2005 (with those older posts in an archive). That led to the tagline “Sports news without access, favor or discretion” from Steele in collaboration with Leitch, as discussed in that above interview.

Comments also quickly became a thing at Gawker’s insistence, with Leitch initially requiring prospective commenters to email him why they should gain those privileges. That then led to a system that was turned over to Rob Iracane. And many commenters from that era and later (including this author) went on to their own blogs and media careers.

May 2008: The ‘Costas Now’ moment

One of the most remarkable points of original-variety Deadspin, and early sports blogs in general, actually had very little to do with the site itself. It came from Bob Costas providing his Costas Now HBO show platform as a venue for writer and author H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger, known for the original Friday Night Lights book (which came to more prominence with the movie and TV adaptations by his cousin Peter Berg) and more, to rant at Leitch about everything he felt was wrong with 2008-era journalism (with recent hero Braylon Edwards there as a spectator).

But the amusing thing about Bissinger’s rant there is that it did more to elevate Deadspin and sports blogging than almost anything else could have. And while the two eventually had a cordial reunion later that year, the original moment here was still a remarkable changing of the guard, indicating the rise of Leitch, Deadspin, and blogs, and the start of the decline of attempted gatekeepers like Costas and Bissinger. Costas Now ended the next year when Costas moved over to MLB Network, and Bissinger’s prominence has significantly dropped since that moment. But it was just the start of the Deadspin ascendancy. (Oh, and things have worked out fine for Leitch, who went on to work at NY Mag, Sports on Earth, various podcasts, and more, and has now written six books. His novel The Time Has Come is particularly recommended here.)

July 2008: Enter AJD

While Leitch was responsible for getting Deadspin rolling and establishing what the site (and some of the larger sports blogging scene at that time) could be, as he said in the above 2015 interview, every Deadspin lead brought their own distinct style. And that was quite notable with his immediate successor and former The Black Table colleague, A.J. Daulerio. Leitch incorporated some media criticism during his time running the site, including the publication of an ESPN internal memo in 2007 (which led to an ESPN executive later confronting him on a panel and accusing him of hacking, interesting considering some recent developments with ex-Deadspin people). And that was referenced in a 2008 ESPN The Magazine farewell to him (which is still remarkable that they published). But Daulerio took that to a new level, especially when it came to ESPN.

Leitch-era Deadspin may have occasionally irked the Worldwide Leader, but the Daulerio-led Deadspin took that much further. From the start of his tenure, Daulerio incorporated a lot of media criticism, especially around ESPN. And that’s funny, considering how Leitch told AA in 2015 that “I didn’t have a single conversation with ESPN PR the entire time I worked at Deadspin,” and how they actually reached out to Daulerio, who was far less willing to work with them:

“On his first day, A.J. [Daulerio] told me he got an e-mail from ESPN PR, being like “Okay, Will’s gone, can we work together?” Which is ironic, because a. I totally would have worked with them if they’d reached out to me in the first place, and b. A.J. torched them in a way I never would have torched them. I think a lot of that was just fear and confusion on how to deal with this new thing.”

Daulerio absolutely did torch ESPN in a way Leitch did not. And parts of that were definitely deserved. Daulerio also stepped into a bit of a blog media criticism void: AA founder Brian Powell operated this site from 2006-2008, and it incorporated ESPN coverage even during that era, but it went on hiatus then until Ben Koo bought and revived the brand in 2010. So in Daulerio’s early days at Deadspin in particular, it was one of the few places regularly and extensively covering ESPN. And that focus grew even more in 2009 when he brought in Tommy Craggs. (In 2011, Daulerio would later sabotage Craggs’ ESPN/Grantland job interview with a singing gorilla.)

There are several other things worth mentioning with Daulerio’s Deadspin tenure. (We’ll get to his Gawker tenure, the Hulk Hogan lawsuit, and the Deadspin implications of that in a bit.) He was responsible for one of the site’s biggest early stories, the 2010 publication of Jenn Sterger’s accusations of sexual harassment and lewd texts from Brett Favre. There are many points of ethics to debate with that story, including how Sterger’s comments to Daulerio were off the record and he ran with them anyway (Daulerio has since apologized for that in his The Small Bow recovery newsletter), but it got Deadspin on the radar for many more people and outlets. And it illustrated a recurring theme of his version of Deadspin: an absolute willingness to take on the powerful, especially those in Bristol, CT.

It’s also worth noting how Daulerio’s Deadspin incorporated many more contributors than the Leitch-led version. Under Leitch, the site largely only saw posts from him, Chandler, occasionally Daulerio, and a few others (Drew Magary started there in 2007, but took on a more prominent role in the Daulerio era). Under Daulerio, the ranks of regular Deadspin writers grew to include everyone from Craggs to Dashiell Bennett to Clay Travis. (By the way, while that initial post is titled “Hello from Clay Travis; Yes, That’s My Real Name” and includes “you might notice that I share a first name with Clay Aiken,” his actual first name is Richard.)

So yes, Travis’ current prominence has a lot to do with Daulerio platforming him way back when. However, that could have gone very differently. Daulerio wrote in 2015 that Travis ” was actually chosen to be the incumbent EIC” after Leitch, with himself initially only considered as an interim measure. And it’s remarkable to ponder what that version of the site might have looked like.)

May 2009: Enter Tommy Craggs

As noted in that above-linked 2015 post from Daulerio (which was a roast of Craggs upon his exit for the role of executive editor of Gawker Media; Craggs would go on to teach at NYU, work at Slate, The Huffington Post, Bomani Jones’ HBO show, and more), one of the most remarkable things that happened during his tenure leading Deadspin was his hire of Craggs. (Who was recommended by Bryan Curtis, of all people.) And first under Daulerio and then leading Deadspin himself (after Daulerio shifted into a Gawker role), Craggs put a notable mark on the site, including intensifying the media criticism even more. And he was crucial to new or elevated roles for many who would play a notable role in the site, including John Koblin, Tim Burke, Tim Marchman, Tom Ley, Jack Dickey, Greg Howard, and Barry Petchesky.

May 2012: The Sarah Phillips story

Perhaps the first thing Deadspin wrote that prompted ESPN’s change was on a very strange subject. Koblin (who would go on to The New York Times, where he still works, a couple of years later) produced a remarkable investigation on how ESPN, led by editor Lynn Hoppes (a previous target of Craggs), platformed a person who had scammed numerous people through previous roles with extremely limited verification of her identity. We discussed that extensively at the time, and ESPN quickly ended their relationship with Phillips. It remains one of the company’s most significant and least defensible journalistic missteps.

January 2013: The Manti Te’o story

Arguably the Deadspin piece that produced the most outside notice and impact was the 2013 one from Tim Burke and Jack Dickey on the “death” of then-Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend. As we noted then, countless media outlets promoted that story before Deadspin’s exposé on it, often using significant details provided by Te’o and his father.

That hoax wound up being notable for more than a decade, including with the 2022 Untold Netflix documentary on the saga. And the piece taking it down remains one of the most notable things done by Deadspin.

November 2013: Buying Dan Le Batard’s Baseball Hall of Fame vote

Possibly the largest controversy caused by Deadspin (at least in the canonical pre-2019 history of the site, not the post-2019 replacement version) came in November 2013 when Tim Marchman announced that they had “bought” a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame (through a donation to the writer’s preferred charity) and turned it over to readers.

In January 2014, Dan Le Batard (then of ESPN and The Miami Herald, now of Meadowlark Media) revealed that it was his vote that Deadspin had bought. That led to a lot of backlash and to the Hall not only revoking Le Batard’s future ballots but passing a rule to specifically prohibit voters from selling their ballot.

April 2015: “How Jason Whitlock Is Poisoning ESPN’s Black Grantland”

While the Sarah Phillips story prompted some ESPN change, that was about a Page 2 (RIP) freelancer. Almost three years later, Deadspin dropped an even bigger ESPN bombshell, one that would change the course of a company site and a media career. That would be Howard’s “How Jason Whitlock Is Poisoning ESPN’s Black Grantland,” an incredible skewering of the ESPN efforts to work with Whitlock to launch what would eventually be The Undefeated (launched successfully under Kevin Merida, in the end) and is now Andscape.

That led to a notable career change for Whitlock. He left the project, eventually left ESPN, joined Fox Sports, eventually pushed back at Deadspin and Howard (with limited success), left Fox, joined Outkick, left Outkick, joined The Blaze, and now has become a figure so reviled that Stephen A. Smith has roasted him (and has been criticized for paying any attention to him). It also led to a remarkable shift at the eventual Undefeated/Andscape, which would probably look quite different in a Whitlock-led version.

2016: Hulk Hogan trial, bankruptcy, Univision sale

The largest shift in Deadspin history wasn’t actually about Deadspin. It was about former Deadspin editor Daulerio’s Gawker coverage of Terry (“Hulk Hogan”) Bollea’s offensive comments in a sex tape. That led to Bollea being awarded $140 million (he actually only got $31 million) in an invasion of privacy case (of note, this was not a defamation case, something many often get wrong), to Gawker Media declaring bankruptcy, and to Univision buying its assets for $135 million.

There was some tension with the Univision acquisition, including with their deletion of a few posts that were the subject of litigation against Gawker (and with some Deadspin backlash against that). But they even wound up defending the site against litigation over past posts. And in retrospect, their ownership looks quite favorable compared to what came next.

April 2019: Great Hill Partners acquisition

In July 2018, Univision began evaluating sale offers for the Gizmodo Media Group (former Gawker Media and The Onion) properties. In April 2019, private equity firm Great Hill Partners bought them for “much less” than what Univision paid. That would lead to a lot of conflict, which we’ll get to.

August 2019: Megan Greenwell resigns

From the very start of the Great Hill Partners ownership (which they eventually set up as through holding company G/O Media), there were tensions with editorial staffers at the various sites. And those were particularly notable at Deadspin. Those became obvious to the public from the start, but that tension particularly escalated in August 2019.

There, after a few months of conflict, Deadspin editor-in-chief Megan Greenwell resigned. Around that, she told Maxwell Tani (then of The Daily Beast) she had been “repeatedly undermined, lied to, and gaslit in my job” by G/O leaders, including G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller and editorial director Paul Maidment. Maidment responded with a statement of “We are laser-focused on serving Deadspin readers sports and everything related to sports” and a memo insisting Deadspin stick to sports (always a problematic idea). This would come up again later. (Of note, Greenwell posted on Twitter/X Monday that, around this latest ownership change, the company finally took down her 2019 “The Adults In The Room” post criticizing Spanfeller and Maidment, which can now be read on her site here.)

October 2019: G/O Media fires Barry Petchesky, entire Deadspin staff resigns

In October 2019, those simmering “stick to sports” tensions erupted into a full boil. There, G/O pulled down a Deadspin post complaining about bad auto-playing ads across the sites (in violation of the union contract), then fired deputy editor Petchesky (who had written almost 20,000 posts for the site over 10 years) for not sticking to sports. The union protested, and the entire Deadspin staff resigned in solidarity. They would go on to found the worker-owned subscription site Defector, which has proven quite successful. Meanwhile, Maidment resigned from his G/O Media role in early November after a brief and terrible attempt at sports blogging in place of the Deadspin staffers.

January 2020: Jim Rich hired, insists he’s not a scab

There were several attempts by Spanfeller and G/O leadership to keep something going at Deadspin.com even after the departure of the entire staff and the continuity they represented to the actual publication. The most notable started in 2020 when they hired former New York Daily News/Huffington Post figure Jim Rich, who insisted he was not a scab despite coming into a role only available thanks to management interference with editorial and resignations in protest of that. Rich would lead the most recent version of “Deadspin,” or at least of things published on Deadspin.com, through July 2021, then return to lead it again from last July until now.

January 2022: The Mike McDaniel post

Obviously, with the history of Deadspin management previously firing Petchesky and the staff resigning in protest, there was only a limited group of people willing to work for the new G/O Media site publishing at Deadspin.com. And that led to numerous controversies with what they did actually post. An early notable one there came with a Sean Beckwith-penned piece titled “Sure, Mike McDaniel seems cool, but he’s not worthy of a head coaching gig yet,” with a subhead of “Please stop and think before you inadvertently dub another young, white guy as the next hot NFL coaching prospect.” As many quickly noted, McDaniel is biracial (and had repeatedly talked about that to the media), so the entire post was based on a false premise. (Oh, and he’s done pretty well.)

July 2023: G/O Media brings in AI-generated content

This AI move, which drew a lot of criticism for its incredible inaccuracies, was across G/O Media properties. But it was particularly notable at Deadspin given the history of G/O management interference at that title. The AI-generated franchise valuation article that appeared there was particularly bad before the eventual human corrections it received.

November 2023: Blackface accusations

This November saw Deadspin senior writer Carron J. Phillips run a piece accusing a young Kansas City Chiefs fan of wearing blackface in the stands at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium. That piece drew immediate criticism and mockery, as photos from other angles indicated the fan had their face painted in both red and black, but even that mockery led to a lot of further discussion. Deadspin updated the piece two weeks later with a “We regret any suggestion that we were attacking the fan” statement and removal of the photo, but still sued over it last month.

March 2024: “Caitlyn Clark”

Who’s one of the most-discussed athletes out there, not just in North America but globally? That would be Iowa’s Caitlin Clark. How did Deadspin cover her? With a “Hopefully the Caitlyn Clark effect doesn’t end with Caitlyn Clarkheadline from writer DJ Dunson.

March 2024: Site sold to Lineup Publishing

On Monday, the Deadspin domain name was sold to Malta-based Lineup Publishing. No staff was retained in the transaction, with staffers reportedly being locked out of work email and Slack even before Spanfeller’s company-wide memo on the sale. We’ll see what’s next published at Deadspin.com and what audience, if any, it finds.

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.