Sports Illustrated Publisher Fires CEO After A.I. Scandal 

CEO of The Arena Group and Sports Illustrated Ross Levinsohn at the 2023 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson Of The Year Award and The Prime Video World Premiere Of “Coach Prime” Season Two at CU Events Center December 06, 2023 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Tom Cooper/Getty Images for Prime Video)

OAN’s Elizabeth Volberding
11:30 AM – Tuesday, December 12, 2023

The Arena Group, the digital publisher of Sports Illustrated, disclosed that its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ross Levinsohn has been fired after a scandal “involving artificial intelligence (AI).”


On Monday, The Arena Group announced that the Sports Illustrated CEO has been terminated in the most recent round of firings at the corporation.

However, the reason for Levinsohn’s firing has not been publicized. Sports Illustrated claimed that its board “took actions to improve the operational efficiency and revenue of the company.”

The decision for the termination comes after a controversy surfaced in which the American sports magazine was found guilty for publishing stories with “fake author names and profile photos created by AI.”

Levinsohn, who served as the company’s CEO for three years, was immediately replaced by interim chief executive Manoj Bhargava, the founder of 5-Hour Energy who operates a majority stake in The Arena Group.

This also comes after Sports Illustrated fired operations president and COO Andrew Kraft, media president Rob Barrett, and corporate counsel Julie Fenster just last week. 

In November, the sports magazine experienced a scandal after a science and tech news site claimed that Sports Illustrated was utilizing AI-generated content and author headshots without sharing that fact with their readers.

Allegedly, the authors’ names and biographies did not link to real, existing individuals and instead, it was shown that the profiles displayed fake AI-generated “writers.” 

When reporters reached out to Sport Illustrated about the AI-generated content, company employees proceeded to delete their online articles and the AI-generated authors immediately disappeared from the website as well.

Subsequently, the Arena Group claimed that the disputed articles were simply “product reviews” that were licensed from AdVonCommerce, an outside third-party company that previously guaranteed all of their articles were written and edited by humans and how they permitted their writers to use “pen names.”

Vince Bodiford, a spokesperson for Bhargava, made a statement regarding the controversial situation.

“All of the media brands, including Sports Illustrated, will continue to operate with the management of those verticals, while the company just takes a broad view of operations and how to improve the business overall,” Bodiford announced.

When asked if the company’s changes are related to claims that Sports Illustrated wrote articles using AI, Bodiford stated that the company has “nothing further to add to the company’s prior statements regarding A.I.”

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