Sports Illustrated's AI Scandal Is Tragically Prophetic
The Sports Illustrated AI scandal Is Just The Beginning

The future is here.

Sports Illustrated, a magazine that is widely considered the apex of sportswriting is being accused of relying on fake authors to write on sports. It’s the same magazine which once sent Nobel laureate William Faulkner to watch his first ice hockey game and write about it, a magazine that Frank Deford called his home for decades, a magazine where the poet Robert Frost, President John F Kennedy, another Nobel laureate John Steinback, the beatnik Jack Kerouac and the novelist Don Delillo gave their voice at one point. Now they have Sora Tanaka and Drew Oritz.


Tanaka describes herself as a ”fitness guru”, while Oritz is someone who has “spent much of his life outdoors” and loves to “guide you through his never-ending list of the best products to keep you from falling to the perils of nature.”


Oritz also had an article under his byline explaining the allure of volleyball in modern sports, writing that “It’s [volleyball] fast-paced, has a high skill ceiling, and is generally an exciting sport to both play and watch. Even people who don’t watch sports can easily understand the intensity and skill required to play volleyball whenever they watch clips. There’s a reason why it’s been such a mainstay in modern sports to this day.” Without wasting time, Oritz then recommends the best full-size volleyballs for you.




In case you haven’t heard of Tanaka or Oritz before, it’s because they apparently don’t exist in reality; they are allegedly a figment of a machine’s imagination. An investigation by a science and technology website Futurism alleges that Sports Illustrated are publishing articles by authors whose headshots and bios are also generated by artificial intelligence technology. Futurism states that when they reached out with questions, Sports Illustrated immediately retracted the bylines of both Oritz and Tanaka. Their parent company Arena Group immediately came up with a statement refuting the claim of Futurism: “Today, an article was published alleging that Sports Illustrated published AI-generated articles. According to our initial investigation, this is not accurate.”


“A number of AdVon’s e-commerce articles ran on certain Arena websites. We continually monitor our partners and were in the midst of a review when these allegations were raised. AdVon has assured us that all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans,” they added.


It’s worth pondering how, as sports has emerged as the most profitable sector, in which everyone, from your neighbourhood billionaires to the king of Saudi wants their piece of cake, sports media across the world is struggling to survive. Earlier this year, the New York Times disbanded its impeccable sports department and decided to take sports feed from The Athletic, the sports website they bought last year for $550 million. Sports Illustrated themselves are in the middle of a financial rut, and laid off half of the newsroom three years ago. Of course, when venture capitalists and nation-states are pouring insane amounts of money, the last thing they want is accountability, and the dystopian world of AI writing promises that.


Featured image credits: Sports Illustrated

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