After backlash, Memphis Magazine pulls controversial September issue

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — After backlash over a cover image featuring County Commissioner and Mayoral Candidate Tami Sawyer, Memphis Magazine issued an apology and announced the September magazine issue will be pulled.

When the cover for this month’s Memphis Magazine became public, the reaction was swift. The issue focuses on the mayoral race and featured caricatures of the three candidates., but the depiction of Tami Sawyer drew criticism in particular as being offensive.

“The caricature reminiscent of Jim Crow era cartoons historically used to demean and demoralize African Americans printed in the Sept. issue of Memphis Magazine is both insulting and hurtful,” Sawyer said in a Facebook post.

The magazine initially released a statement only acknowledging the criticism. But a day later, the Memphis Magazine CEO issued an apology with the heading, “We failed Memphis.”

“I am profoundly sorry for the cover of the September issue of Memphis Magazine and the pain it caused,” part of the statement read.

With that apology, the magazine also removed digital copies, print copies and will not deliver remaining newsstand copies.

“I was pleased to learn that Memphis Magazine released a ‘real’ apology, and are pulling the magazine from retail stores and their website which is most appropriate,” the president of the Memphis NAACP said. “The NAACP Memphis Branch will continue to challenge racist, demeaning, and offensive actions that face our community with a focus on changing unrealistic perceptions of people of color.”

New Chairman of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners Mark Billingsley also voiced support for Sawyer.

“I feel September’s cover of Memphis Magazine, ‘The Race for Mayor’ to be racist, demeaning and an effort to represent candidates as grotesque, especially my Commission colleague Tami Sawyer,” he posted on social media.

The magazine’s CEO said they will be making company changes to prevent something like this from happening again.

It’s unclear if the cover of the magazine’s September issue will be changed.

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