It’s a tumultuous environment in the sports media world right now. Sports Illustrated‘s future is uncertain after Authentic Brands Group revoked Arena Group’s license to publish it last week, while The Los Angeles Times laid off 115 employees Tuesday and Wednesday saw a report that G/O Media is reportedly looking for buyers for some of its titles, possibly including Deadspin. Wednesday also saw the news that Jermaine Spradley, who had been heading up Vox Media’s SB Nation since 2020 (first as a senior vice president, then with the title of publisher since March 2022), is leaving at the end of the month, citing “the constraints the business is under” in an email to staff:
This is just one of the many changes at Vox and SB Nation over the past few years. In 2020, around the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting advertising slowdown, the wider company concentrated many of its furloughs and layoffs on SB Nation, then spent $4 million to settle class-action lawsuits from former site managers and contributors who sued over their treatment.
Following those developments, October 2020 saw Spradley’s appointment to the senior vice president role. He had previously been SB Nation’s general manager from March 2019-March 2020 and vice president, audience development from March 2020-October 2020). And that appointment itself was interesting, coming 16 months after a Vox release that their four key brands would be represented by someone at the SVP level (and with the other three having SVPs announced at that point); the lag there before an internal promotion seemed to add to the case Vox no longer viewed SB Nation as a critical piece of the company (despite its crucial role in the company’s history; the whole company grew out of sports).
Spradley did quickly make some moves. He brought in two more executives within a month of receiving the SVP title. And he further bolstered their emphasis on video and mixed-media projects, which really took off with the August 2020 launch of Secret Base. But there have been many more blows for SB Nation and those who still worked there since, with the company closing large numbers of its team sites in 2022 and 2023 (leading to some acquiring those sites and going independent) and with January 2023 seeing yet more Vox cuts that heavily hit SB Nation. Vox then asked for donations in April 2023, and many of the responses they received were from people upset about their handling of SB Nation.
And Spradley’s comments in this exit email, and the lack of detail on who will replace him (or if his role will even be directly filled) don’t seem optimistic for the future of SB Nation. They still have a homepage with writers, they still have a number of team and league sites (although nowhere near what they once had), and they still have Secret Base, which Spradley raved about on LinkedIn last month after one of its films was named to The Atlantic‘s “The 10 Best Films of 2023” list alongside many Hollywood movies. And there could still be plenty ahead for them. But it’s definitely notable to see their top executive leaving in this way.
[Spradley photo from Vox’s 2020 announcement on his hire to the SVP role]