Remembering the ‘Sports Illustrated’ Football Phone

Sports Illustrated Football Phone Commercial

There is sad news reported today that most, if not all, of the staff at venerable Sports Illustrated magazine have been laid off and the future of the publication looks grim.

According to Front Office Sports, “Authentic, the licensing group that purchased Sports Illustrated for $110 million from Meredith five years ago, has terminated the agreement it holds with The Arena Group to publish SI in print and digital, according to an email obtained by Front Office Sports. That move comes three weeks after Arena missed a $3.75 million payment that breached the company’s SI licensing deal, which began in 2019.”

Oh, for the days when a football-shaped landline phone promotion on cable TV could sell a million subscriptions for a print periodical.

A 2015 Rolling Stone article has a thorough history of the SI Football Phone and its successor, the SI Sneaker Phone, in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

The social channels are full of people posting their favorite old SI covers and lamenting the presumed death of a magazine they once loved but probably haven’t purchased in 20 years.

I doubt that SI will vanish, since its iconic brand has value. It will just have to painfully evolve like every other beloved media entity we grew up with.

But a free football phone seems like a great way to start.