Sports Illustrated Crisis: Arena Group Fired CEO Amid AI Criticism

In a recent development, The Arena Group, the publisher of Sports Illustrated, has terminated the employment of CEO Ross Levinsohn. This decision comes on the heels of the revelation that Sports Illustrated had been publishing articles authored by non-existent individuals with AI-generated headshots and fake biographies.

Arena Group Dismisses CEO After Sports Illustrated AI Articles Scandal

The board of The Arena Group, in a statement released on Monday, announced the termination of Levinsohn’s employment and appointed Manoj Bhargava as the interim chief executive. This move follows a board meeting focused on enhancing the operational efficiency and revenue of the company.

Curiously, the official release makes no mention of the AI scandal that unfolded in November. This controversy, exposed by Futurism, shed light on the publication of AI-generated content in Sports Illustrated.

Futurism’s investigative report unearthed fake profiles, including one attributed to “Sora Tanaka,” a supposed product reviewer. The fabricated biography falsely claimed Tanaka’s expertise in fitness and nutrition. Notably, “Sora Tanaka” is revealed to be a non-existent entity.

Despite the damning evidence, The Arena Group, which acquired Sports Illustrated in 2019, intensely denies the allegations. The publisher contends that the controversial articles originated from a third-party advertising company, AdVon Commerce.

Read more: The Greatest Gemini AI Demo Video From Google was Faked

AdVon Commerce and the Pseudonymous Writing Scandal

According to a spokesperson for The Arena Group, the company’s initial investigation contradicts the claims of AI-generated articles. Instead, they argue that AdVon Commerce, the third party involved, provided commercial content. 

However, the spokesperson acknowledged that some articles had writers using pen names or pseudonyms, actions the company condemns. Consequently, The Arena Group cut ties with AdVon and removed its content from Arena websites.

Founded in the year 1954, Sports Illustrated boasts a rich and celebrated past. It has a notable legacy, with its highlights encompassing iconic swimsuit editions and noteworthy contributions from acclaimed writers such as William Faulkner and John Updike. However, the publication’s credibility has faced challenges due to recent developments.

The Integration of AI and Ongoing Controversy

Earlier this year, Levinsohn hinted at incorporating AI into the journalism of Sports Illustrated, emphasizing that AI would complement, not replace, traditional journalistic practices. Despite this assurance, the recent scandal has raised questions about the ethical use of AI in media.

In a series of moves, The Arena Group terminated the employment of operations president and COO Andrew Kraft, media president Rob Barrett, and corporate counsel Julie Fenster last week, signaling a broader shake-up in response to the controversy.

Manoj Bhargava, now interim CEO, is the founder of the company responsible for the popular 5-Hour Energy Drink product.


1. What led to the termination of Sports Illustrated CEO, Ross Levinsohn?

The termination followed the revelation that Sports Illustrated had been publishing articles with AI-generated content, prompting action to address operational efficiency and revenue concerns.

2. How did The Arena Group respond to allegations of AI-generated articles?

The Arena Group denied the allegations, attributing the controversial articles to a third-party advertising company, AdVon Commerce. However, it later emerged that AdVon writers used pseudonyms, leading to the termination of their partnership.

3. What role did Manoj Bhargava play in the controversy?

Manoj Bhargava, founder of the company behind 5-Hour Energy Drink, has been appointed interim CEO following the termination of Ross Levinsohn. His role is crucial as The Arena Group navigates through the aftermath of the AI-generated articles scandal.

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Aliha Zulfiqar
Aliha Zulfiqar
With a major in English Language and Literature, I'm a dedicated SEO Content Writer. Also, I love to write about technology. With over 2 years of experience, I've had the privilege of contributing to various renowned platforms. As I look forward to the future, I am committed to refining my work and delivering content that stands out.

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