Sports Illustrated has fired one of its highest-paid writers after he complained about coronavirus-related pay cuts that were revealed by the magazine’s publisher last month.
Grant Wahl, one of the preeminent soccer journalists in the country, was making more than $350,000 a year but was getting hit with a 30-percent pay cut as part of cost cuts last month that included the firing of 31 people at Maven, the magazine’s publisher since last fall, according to sources. The blood-letting resulted in about 6 percent of the staff at SI being let go.
Prior to his axing on Friday afternoon, Wahl had been blasting management for the cuts in a series of Instagram posts in recent days. Management struck back, branding him an ingrate in a memo that was circulated to staffers.
“We’ve decided to direct what would have been this person’s salary into additional severance pay and health benefits for those laid off who need it most,” Jim Heckman, CEO of Maven, said in the memo obtained by The Post.
“To complain about a personal pay cut when 31 others had lost their jobs is incomprehensible in light of the sacrifices others made to help limit layoffs and maintain liveable salaries for our staff,” said the memo. “Such a me-first attitude is not part of the tradition and culture Maven is committed to maintaining.”
Although the memo did not reveal the writer’s name, a source close to the situation said it referred to Wahl. The memo said the fired staffer was paid “over $350,000 last year to infrequently write stories that generated little meaningful viewership or revenue.”
Wahl himself revealed on social media he was fired on Friday morning with no severance. It followed a series of Instagram posts in recent weeks that were picked up on Twitter that blasted management for the cuts.
“Who would take advantage of a pandemic to permanently reduce someone’s salary beyond that pandemic,” Wahl wrote. “Maven and James Heckman would.”
The posts have since been deleted. But on Friday afternoon, Wahl posted a rebuttal to the Friday memo on Twitter:
“I told Maven I was fine taking a 30% pay cut during the pandemic. But it was shameful to try to push through a permanent 30% cut beyond the pandemic,” Wahl wrote. He added that his “base salary was far below [$350,000], but I got a bonus because my bosses said my work was very good,” adding, “I write frequently.”
Wahl and some other top writers including Tom Verducci and Pat Forde, who joined five months earlier from Yahoo Sports survived the cuts last month, which included nine staffers at SI as part of the 31 companywide.
Maven took over the media operations of Sports Illustrated and its websites under a licensing deal with Authentic Brands Group, which had purchased the magazine from Meredith in the spring of 2019 for $110 million.
The handoff to Maven — which also owns Jim Cramer’s financial news site The Street and provides tech support for many digital publications it doesn’t own — took place in October and was accompanied by an initial staff reduction at SI of more than 40 percent.