SI Board Facing ‘Significant Changes’ After Blue Lives Matter Ad

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Two large shareholders of Maven, the company that publishes Sports Illustrated (SI), filed papers last week to fire five of the company’s seven directors, with the aim of replacing the board with one that better “reflects the ‘new’ Maven,” according to documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“The board members under attack joined the company under former CEO James Heckman, who was replaced earlier this year amid controversy over major staff cuts at SI and the company’s hosting of a Blue Lives Matter website on its ad platform following the killing of George Floyd,” the New York Post reported.

Earlier this year, Maven staffers were upset at the company’s continued affiliation with Defense Maven, a website also known as Blue Lives Matter, and called the website “’embarrassing,’ ‘a disgrace,’ and ‘horrible,’ saying many of the comments were overtly racist ‘with no monitoring,’ and noting how the site’s loose editorial restrictions allow factually incorrect information to go unchecked,” the Daily Beast said in June

“Except, there were no examples of racist comments offered,” Breitbart News’ John Nolte said at the time. “One Maven Media staffer complained about a comment that ‘advocated for putting snipers and armed drones in place to target and shoot looters to ‘set an example for the world to see.’”

Nolte wrote:

Another staffer threw out the general complaint that the ‘comment sections are full of people calling for the extermination of people like me.’ Still another said, ‘I don’t care whether or not they make us money. It’s morally wrong to continue platforming a site that advocates for the fascistic oppression of all Americans but especially black people, other POCs, LGBTQ, and the disabled.’

Heckman, at the time, “said that while he heard employees’ concerns, he also emphasized the company’s original journalistic mission to promote an open dialogue and break down readers’ ideological bubbles with different perspectives.”

However, Maven took down the Blue Lives Matter website, and released a statement that said, in part:

We are taking a temporary step back on the website and are making new plans and tactics to move forward and fulfill our original vision and mission. Our plan is to return on a separate platform, but with a new name, new controls on community moderation and a new focus on guardrails to allow for free but civil speech.

Maven stocks continue to trade under $1, even though the company spent $126.5 million last year on the purchase of Sports Illustrated and TheStreet.com, a financial news website, in an attempt to move the company from designing websites for Maxim and the History Channel into a larger media markets.

The two shareholders requesting the ouster, boutique bank B. Riley and investment management company 180 Degree Capital, “largely financed” the acquisition of Sports Illustrated and TheStreet.com last year and “have redefined the Company and its prospects,” they said during a November 3 press release.

SI announced Sunday that their 2020 Sportsperson of the Year award would go to “The Activist Athlete,” including Lakers star LeBron James, WNBA’s Breanna Stewart, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tennis champ Naomi Osaka, and former Chiefs lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif for being “champions on the field, and champions for others off it.”

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