Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl hits back at firing



Grant Wahl
, who has covered soccer for Sports Illustrated for more than two decades, was fired on Friday.

In a tweet on Friday afternoon, he said, "Maven just fired me from Sports Illustrated. No severance. Nothing."

Wahl is the country's most visible soccer writer, breaking many major stories during his more than 23 years with SI. He was a frequent contributor on Fox Sports' soccer coverage and the author of The Beckham Experiment, the first soccer book to become a New York Times bestseller.

He graduated from Princeton University and joined Sports Illustrated in 1996. He won four Magazine Story of the Year awards for his coverage of college basketball before shifting to work solely on soccer.

SI has been sold sold twice in the last two years. Meredith acquired Sports Illustrated in January 2018 from Time and sold it to Authentic Brands Group in June 2019. Authentic Brands Group turned around and licensed SI’s print and digital publishing rights to Maven, a digital media company, under a 10-year licensing agreement.

Maven instituted layoffs of employees at the magazine and online site in October 2019 and six more last week. Many of the magazine's famous names previously left.

The Maven introduced a “team network” of hubs grouped around pro and college teams whose online content is produced by freelancers and cut its famous magazine's frequency to monthly. The Maven's CEO, James Heckman, started similar online sports sites at Rivals.com and Scout.com over the last two decades.

Wahl's firing came four days after criticizing Heckman for his handling of pay-cuts during the coronavirus pandemic. In posts on social media later taken down, Wahl said his salary was reduced 30 percent during the Pandemic and Maven was trying to make the cut permanent. "Who would take advantage of a pandemic to permanently reduce someone's salary beyond that pandemic? Maven and James Heckman would."

Heckman responded by sending out a staff memo on Friday, criticizing Wahl for not agreeing to a permanent cut in pay and minimizing his contributions.

"Every senior staff member volunteered to put their personal budgeted future at risk, to save jobs and ensure stable salaries for those making less," Heckman wrote in a memo to SI staff. "Everyone, that is, but one person. That person made $350,000 last year to infrequently write stories that generated little meaningful viewership or revenue."

Wahl refuted Heckman's version of the facts.

Wahl's recent work at SI's Planet Futbol included stories on Jermaine Jones, Carli Lloyd and Bob Bradley.

Later in the day, the Sports Illustrated Union, which Maven has yet to voluntarily recognize, issued a statement in support of Wahl, blasting Heckman for smearing Wahl.

Photo by Marina Zarya.

13 comments about "Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl hits back at firing".
  1. Brian Yaney, April 11, 2020 at 12:48 p.m.

    I stopped patronizing SI decades ago, before Grant Wahl was around, because of their abysmal and insultingly poor soccer coverage (The only real option, pre-internet, was my subscription to Soccer America.). SI only covered the sport when there was a riot or scandal a couple of times a year or when the USMNT got trounced. I have never forgiven them, even after they had enough class to hire Grant, and I never will.

  2. ARISTIDES SASTRE replied, April 12, 2020 at 2:16 p.m.

    Brian I agree 100% with you.  I too stopped reading SI many years because of their inherent bias against the sport of soccer.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  

  3. John Soares, April 11, 2020 at 3:52 p.m.

    Always resented SI's lack of soccer coverage.

    As of now, no longer a subscriber.

  4. Wallace Wade, April 11, 2020 at 6:39 p.m.

    Lots of people have lost their jobs. Hate to see it happen to anyone, even Wahl. I was never a fan of his, mostly because he seemed to always report the company line as far as MLS and US Federation was concerned. Can't call him "hard hitting" for sure. As for the firing...it sucks for anyone but it's called "The way it is". 

  5. Bob Ashpole, April 12, 2020 at 12:43 a.m.

    Apparently management was trying to force Wahl to quit, and, when he couldn't take a hint, they fired him.

    I expect he is working on his next book right now. 

  6. Derek Mccracken, April 12, 2020 at 10:35 a.m.

    This Maven CEO, James Heckman, sounds like a piece of work. Is he really that immature that he's going to air SI's issues, dirty laundry, in public? To me, that sophmoric, "mean girls"-type letter sounded like a bunch of revengeful teens got together and crafted something that would do most damage to someone they have been bulllying for months. If I was on SI's board, I'd seriously consider ousting this so-called leader because, from this glimpse of his leadership he's shown us, he's anything but.

  7. Danny Sullivan, April 12, 2020 at 10:47 a.m.

    Terrible. SI continues its descent toward irrelevance. Good luck to Grant wherever he ends up next. Very much appreciate the quality of his repor to Ning and analysis. 

  8. beautiful game, April 12, 2020 at 11:40 a.m.

    Maven CEO is more interested in reality media sports coverage which is already part of the ESPN platform of its high velocity analysis show of fretting and strutting upon the stage and signifying nothing.

  9. frank schoon, April 12, 2020 at 12:04 p.m.

    Don't know the Grant Wahl, never heard of him, was surprised SI even had soccer coverage for over the years SI tends to write about sports in a manner that would reflect journalistic style of reporters who write for 'People' magazine...And no I don't read 'People' magazine unless I'm in the dentist office.

    As far as overal soccer journalism goes  ,I don't think it was a big loss......

  10. Wooden Ships replied, April 12, 2020 at 3:27 p.m.

    Grant carved out a space for himself with that rag and as far as I know is a decent guy. Like mentioned above I abandoned SI in the early or mid 70's due to their blatant disrespect of our game. The times I listened or read something from Grant it didn't stay with me. Like most soccer coverage here, pretty vanilla. 

  11. frank schoon replied, April 12, 2020 at 4:26 p.m.

    Ships, Right on!!!  I always felt SI gave little respect for soccer...

  12. R2 Dad, April 12, 2020 at 2:06 p.m.

    Traditional media is circling the toilet, and Maven is just a symptom of it. I blame this on the original intenet business model, which is Free Lunch. No one wanted to pay for online content, so the money had to be made somewhere. And NOW we're complaining about our data being sold? in the end we get both: we are paying for the content we want AND our data is being sold. The pandemic is only facilitating the rationallization for harvesting. As long as dumb Americans continue to believe there is Free Lunch, the lessons aren't being learned.  I'm not holding my breath.

  13. Alvaro Bettucchi, April 13, 2020 at 12:54 a.m.

    I remember an article in Soccer America, that the "chairperson" of the L.A. Olympics, at the time the current baseball commissioner, stated he was going to pull future advertisements from the media, if they would write about the soccer final. Even without the media's support, 80,000 fans showed up! Has anything changed? Where pro soccer has arrived, yes! But if I would have to judge the San Francisco Bay Area? There is very  little coverage about soccer and the San Jose Earhquakes. Mondays, it's difficult to even find results. I just found out a best kept secret, that there is a semi-pro team across the bay in Oakland!. Not a bit of news of new or current Quakes players that have arrived. I stopped buying Sports Ilustrated long ago, and the same with the San Francisco Chronicle. Soccer fans also should begin doing the same. Let's support the media that gives a just coverage on soccer. We now have a strong base, it's time we hit the media where it hurts. In their $$$$ pockets. Thank God for "Soccer America"!

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