This basketball magazine is mixing art with 'outlandish' sport stories

Flagrant Magazine is carving out its own space in the sports media industry by mixing abstract basketball art with culture stories from off the court.
Posted at 9:19 PM, Mar 22, 2023

Looking for basketball coverage that goes beyond final scores and coaching changes? Meet Flagrant Magazine.

"I think there's so much more to basketball that we have uncovered in this magazine that just wasn't being covered before," said Alex Haigh, designer and co-founder of Flagrant Magazine. 

Founded by Ashtyn Butuso, Brazilia Morales, Bethany Marrie Ito and Haigh in 2019, the magazine prides itself on being an intersection of basketball culture and art.

"We joke — our motto is that digital is dead, and I think that sort of speaks to it, right?" said Butuso, editor-in-chief of Flagrant Magazine. "Like, we just we want sports to be a full experience rather than a space for people to just tweet about their knee-jerk reactions to whatever the latest story is."

Collaborating with writers and artists from across the planet, Flagrant is delivering stories that dive into topics not normally discussed in traditional sports coverage, like equity, indigenous representation and sustainability.

"The media was so saturated with gossip and stats, and we were just like, 'We need to tell real stories.' There are so many stories that just get untold," said Morales, business director of Flagrant Magazine. "We really wanted to be those people, that platform, to tell those stories that nobody's hearing and reading or seeing."

Those stories are paired with eye-catching imagery the team said speaks for itself, with everything from hot pink toilets to detailed illustrations. As a unique team rule, the magazine's covers never have any faces on them, instead opting for abstract basketball art.

Furman guard JP Pegues celebrates with the team after defeating Virginia.

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"We want to be different," said Ito, creative director of Flagrant Magazine. "We don't want to put just, you know, an athlete or some person on the cover. We want to be out-of-the-ordinary, outlandish."

For the founders, one of the driving forces behind the magazine has been the desire to create a space off the court that puts men's and women's basketball quite literally on the same page.

"A lot of people think because we're a women-founded magazine, that we only cover women, but we don't do that intentionally because we know that the large, the vast, majority of basketball fans are men," Haigh said. "So if we can put people of all genders and cover people of all skill level and genders in front of men, then we're going to grow the audience that way."

That model is working for Flagrant. Since publishing its first issue in January 2020, the team has gone on to publish four more issues, which are published roughly every 10 months. In addition, the team reports their readership numbers being at roughly 20,000 and growing, with subscribers in countries like Canada, France and Japan.

"We thought it would just be a little side project, but it's morphed into something a lot bigger than that," Butuso said. 

The team has also gone on to launch a weekly newsletter and podcast. Butuso notes the team has also partnered with companies like Twitter, Wilson and Nike on some of their work, as they eye the future of Flagrant Magazine.

"You don't have to be a basketball fan to be a Flagrant fan or to be in our community because our community will accept you either way," Morales said. "You can learn to like basketball, and you can learn to love basketball, and you can be part of the community regardless."