Controversial Sports Blog Lays Off All Employees Following Sale and Scandal with Young Chiefs Fan

By: Georgia | Published: Mar 12, 2024

Deadspin, a widely recognized sports website, has undergone significant changes. The site was recently purchased by Lineup Publishing, a European startup firm, which led to the dismissal of the entire editorial team. 

“Deadspin’s new owners have made the decision to not carry over any of the site’s existing staff and instead build a new team more in line with their editorial vision for the brand,” according to a memo from G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller obtained by The Daily Mail.

Controversial Article Leads to Legal Action

The blog gained unwanted attention after publishing an article that inaccurately accused 9-year-old Holden Armenta of wearing “blackface”. 

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A Kansas City Chiefs player, number 4, is captured in the foreground holding up a football in his right hand in a celebratory gesture. He is on the field, wearing his team's vibrant red uniform, complete with a red helmet and visor. In the background, another Chiefs player, number 73, is out of focus

Source: The Kansas City Chiefs/Facebook

The child, of Native American descent, was actually wearing face paint in his team’s colors. This incident led to a defamation lawsuit filed by the boy’s family against Deadspin, stirring significant controversy and criticism towards the site.

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Editorial Team Dismissed with Little Notice

The transition was abrupt for Deadspin’s staff, who were informed of their job termination with only 30 minutes’ notice before being locked out of their company systems. 

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Julie DiCaro, a senior editor at Deadspin, shared that the staff were blindsided and found themselves unable to access their work laptops and email accounts swiftly after the announcement.

G/O Media's CEO Explains the Sale

Jim Spanfeller, the CEO of G/O Media, provided some context for the sale in a staff memo.

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He mentioned that the decision to sell Deadspin “included a variety of important factors that include the buyer’s editorial plans for the brand, tough competition in the sports journalism sector, and a valuation that reflected a sizable premium from our original purchase price for the site,” as reported by The Daily Mail.

Immediate Lockout for Deadspin Staff

Following the sale announcement, Deadspin employees were quickly locked out of their company accounts, leaving them to discover the news through social media or external sources rather than from the company directly.

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The rapid lockout prevented the staff from receiving the memo from Spanfeller.

New Direction Under New Ownership

According to the memo from Jim Spanfeller to the staff, the new owners of Deadspin plan to reshape the website’s editorial direction.

This image shows the logo for Deadspin, centered on a dark teal background framed by two lighter teal horizontal stripes. The word "DEADSPIN" is in bold, white, capital letters

Source: Deadspin/X

They intend to respect Deadspin’s legacy while introducing a different approach to sports coverage, which necessitates a complete overhaul of the editorial team.

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Deadspin's History of Provocative Reporting

Deadspin has been known for its bold and often polarizing coverage, intertwining sports journalism with cultural commentary. 

The image is a collage with multiple sports-related visuals against a red background. In the center, a man in a suit and tie appears with a stern expression. To the left, there is a statue of a baseball player and an athlete with a basketball. On the right, a man is swinging a golf club, with a sign reading "LOUDER!" in the background. The bottom of the collage features a bold caption in a yellow box that reads "SICK SAD WORLD OF SPORTS."

Source: Deadspin/X

The site’s approach has garnered both acclaim and criticism, reflecting the evolving landscape of digital media where the lines between news and advocacy can sometimes blur.

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Acknowledgment of Departing Staff's Contributions

In his communication, Spanfeller took a moment to express gratitude towards the outgoing Deadspin team, acknowledging their efforts and contributions to the site’s success. 

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“I would like to thank them for their hard work and efforts that helped make Deadspin stand out in the crowded sports media space,” Spanfeller stated.

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Impacts of Layoffs Across Major Cities

The layoffs at Deadspin affected staff members located in various major cities, including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

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This widespread impact highlights the scale of the changes and the number of individuals who found their roles at Deadspin abruptly terminated.

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Industry-Wide Challenges in Media

The layoffs at Deadspin are not an isolated incident but part of a larger trend, with numerous organizations facing layoffs due to decreasing advertisement revenues and changes in web traffic, largely attributed to updates in search algorithms by major platforms like Google and Facebook.

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This year, several prominent media houses, including Buzzfeed, Vice Media, The Los Angeles Times, NBC News, MSNBC, Sports Illustrated, and CBS News, have all announced job reductions. 

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Deadspin's Continued Operation Post-Sale

Despite the sweeping changes in its editorial team, Deadspin’s website remains active

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Source: Doc_8mmLebel/X

Content continues to be published, signaling that the site is maintaining its presence and output in the immediate aftermath of the ownership transition.

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Reaction from Competing Media Figures

Dave Portnoy, CEO of Barstool Sports, openly expressed his views on Deadspin’s situation in a highly public manner, demonstrating the competitive and often contentious nature of the sports media industry. 

Dave Portnoy outside a building, gesturing with one finger raised as if making a point or about to speak. He's wearing a bright purple Surf Style windbreaker with neon green and pink accents and a matching purple bucket hat. Behind him, there's a yellow banner celebrating the 40th anniversary of a pizza place in John's Pass, Florida

Source: David Portnoy - El Presidente/Facebook

His comments reflect the rivalries and strong emotions that can surface in response to major industry developments.

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