Why Did Sports Illustrated Colorize Baylor's Black Uniforms? [UPDATE: SI Responds, Sort Of]

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Today the Dallas Morning News photography blog noted something interesting about last week's issue of Sports Illustrated: in the "Leading Off" section, a photo from Baylor's upset win over Kansas State shows the Bears wearing green jerseys. Baylor's jerseys are, usually, green. But they wore black unis against Kansas State, and in the original photograph as posted to US Presswire by photojournalist Matthew Emmons the jerseys are indeed black. (Play with the slider above to see the original photo vis-a-vis the one published in SI.)


Sure, photos are regularly manipulated for cropping, color balance, brightness, or contrast prior to publication. But in this instance, SI took considerable effort to colorize Baylor's black uniforms. (They also fudged a bit and made the grass a lot greener; the overall manipulation of the image left it blurry and "digital-looking," especially on the printed page.) Why change black to green? Does a higher-up have a personal grudge against black jerseys? The degree of manipulation necessary to make the green appear goes beyond basic editing and puts the image squarely in the camp of "photo illustration," yet no credit for the work is provided. We've reached out to Sports Illustrated and asked how and why this happened; we'll update if they get back to us.

Update (6:28 p.m.): SI spokesperson Scott Novak told our John Koblin the colorization was an "error" that led to the colors being "misleading." He pledged the magazine would run a correction next week, but refused to answer when asked exactly what error would lead to this kind of extreme photo manipulation. This isn't just an artifact of Adobe Photoshop's "Shadows/Highlights" function, used often to brighten too-dark images. The image is heavily manipulated, from various players' skin tones to the addition of an extra layer of grass at the bottom (cropped in our slider, but here's the full photo as it appeared in the magazine).


It's worth noting that SI either didn't know about the photo issue or was hoping nobody would notice; otherwise, they'd have run the correction in this week's issue.


h/t to Amanda