Deadspin’s slogan has long been “sports news without access, favor, or discretion.” Add “writers” to that list.
At least 12 of the website’s staffers have walked away from the outlet since its hedge fund-owned parent company ordered the site to stick to sports in a memo this week, depleting the staff to just a handful of employees.
Features editor Tom Ley was among those who left, telling the New York Times that what is happening with the online sports magazine is a “disgrace.”
The exits were continuing Thursday, with longtime writer Drew Magary announcing he was heading out the door. Magary managed to post his goodbye
“I resigned from Deadspin this morning. That was a fun time you and me had there all those years, wasn’t it? Let’s do it again sometime,” Magary wrote on Twitter.
Like most Deadspin writers, Magary drifted back and forth from sports to coverage of pop culture. While Magary is probably best known for his annual “Why your team sucks” stories about each NFL team (including the Eagles), he also wrote a yearly takedown of the holiday Williams-Sonoma catalog that was always a traffic winner.
Also announcing his departure on Thursday was Dan McQuade, a former Philadelphia Magazine writer who has worked for Deadspin since March 2017. Although he did his fair share of sports stories, McQuade was also the author of an annual rundown of the best Wildwood boardwalk T-shirts, which he referenced on his departure announcement on Twitter.
Other staff writers who have announced they were leaving or who confirmed their departure include Laura Wagner, Kelsey McKinney, Lauren Theisen, Billy Haisley, Chris Thompson, Patrick Redford, Albert Burneko, Dom Cosentino, Luis Paez-Pumar, and Giri Nathan. All of the departures were effective immediately.
The resignations follow the ouster of longtime writer and editor Barry Petchesky, a Temple University alumnus who was fired Tuesday for refusing to stick to the company’s new “sports only” policy.
G/O Media released a statement Thursday criticizing traffic on Deadspin’s non-sports stories, claiming that readers didn’t come for stories like “It’s Okay to Log Off," which itself had a sports hook — George W. Bush’s and Ellen DeGeneres’ presence at a Dallas Cowboys game.
Petchesky, who had been the site’s longest-serving employee, called the company’s claims “demonstrably false.”
“According to our analytics department, since the start of the year, non-sports posts have on average double the traffic of sports posts,” Petchesky wrote on Twitter.
Tension between employees and executives were already high when G/O Media editorial director Paul Maidment sent out a memo Monday telling Deadspin staffers they were no longer permitted to write stories that didn’t have an explicit link to sports. In a Wednesday statement, the union that represents Deadspin employees blamed the sudden change on new CEO Jim Spanfeller.
“From the outset, CEO Jim Spanfeller has worked to undermine a successful site by curtailing its most well-read coverage because it makes him personally uncomfortable,” GMG Union said in a statement. “'Stick to sports’ is and always has been a thinly veiled euphemism for ‘don’t speak truth to power.’ In addition to being bad business, Spanfeller’s actions are morally reprehensible.”
In addition to the new sports-only edict, executives also removed a post written by “Deadspin Staff” criticizing the company’s new autoplay video ads and removed comments from all Deadspin stories. Many former staffers directed readers to an open channel on sister G/O Media website Gizmodo, where readers weighed in on the fate of Deadspin with some colorful comments.
“Its interesting, for some reason they feel like Deadspin being just another generic sports blog is going to keep it alive,” wrote one reader. Another asked if there were any plans to launch a new sports website elsewhere, while someone else pointed out that “not understanding what your own site does can be a recurring problem.”
While the resignations have drawn widespread support from other reporters and media observers, some former targets of the site — including Fox Nation host Britt McHenry and Fox Sports radio host (and former Deadspin employee) Clay Travis — gloated over the departures.
Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy celebrated the news in a blog post and taunted several former staffers, including Wagner, who wrote about Portnoy’s online feud with ESPN host Sam Ponder back in 2018.