Tony Reali Around the Horn Sports Illustrated Screen grab: ESPN’s Around the Horn

In the days since Sports Illustrated was first accused of publishing content that was generated by artificial intelligence (AI), many across the sports media landscape — including current SI staffers — have weighed in.

That includes on ESPN’s Tony Reali, who took aim at the publication on Thursday’s episode of Around the Horn.

During a discussion regarding Sports Illustrated‘s controversial selection of Deion Sanders as its “Sportsperson of the Year,” Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News said that the choice was more indicative of what the storied magazine has become than what it used to be.

“I don’t know if you can explain to young people what Sports Illustrated at one time meant to those of us who read it in the 60s and the 70s and the 80s,” Cowlishaw said. “It meant something every week and that’s long gone. This pick is more like what the modern day Sports Illustrated, I’m afraid, I’m sorry to say, has become. This is kind of a joke.”

Following the panel’s discussion regarding the selection of Sanders, Reali weighed in with his own take on the state of SI.

“Tim, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but you were speaking about how disappointed you are and were with what has become of Sports Illustrated. And that’s not against any of the humans of Sports Illustrated,” Reali said, before reading a a portion of the statement from the SI Union expressing outrage over the alleged use of AI.

“We all should be [horrified],” Reali continued. “Sports Illustrated was about two things: Writing and the photos. If the writing is artificial and the images are artificial, then what you have is…”

While Reali’s audio seemed to cut out before he could finish his statement, he took to X (formerly Twitter) to reiterate his point.

Sports Illustrated‘s publisher, The Arena Group, has claimed that the articles in question were the result of a third-party company that has assured it that they were written by actual humans. Regardless of whether that’s true or not — and many are skeptical it is — the entire episode has been just another hit to SI‘s already tarnished reputation.

At this point, it’s going to take some serious work for Sports Illustrated to reestablish itself as the standard for sports journalism that Cowlishaw spoke of. And controversial decisions like naming a 4-8 college football coach its “Sportsperson of the Year” likely won’t help.

[Tony Reali on X]

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.