Barstool has a Messy History, and it is all Catching Up

I want you to think really hard right now. Who was the last person to be canceled? I’ll give you a couple of seconds. Turn off your monitor, take a drive, go for a jog... Okay cool, welcome back. Think of anyone who got canceled yet? No, of course not because cancel culture is not a real threat to people in media. Full stop. Claiming that it is, is just another attack on “wokeness” by right-wingers. If your brain jumped to thinking of Louis C.K. or Woody Allen, two people who have been heavily described as being "canceled”. Understand that they are alleged sex offenders. Even then, C.K. has been touring comedy clubs, rebuilding an audience, while Allen has consistently been churning out movies with legitimate star actors such as Steve Carrell and Joaquin Phoenix and of course fellow nonvictim of cancelation Scarlett Johansson.

The reason I am bringing this all up is the rant made by Dave Portnoy, the founder and Chief of Content of Barstool Sports. For those who don’t know, Barstool is a sports and pop-culture media company that was started by Portnoy as a Boston based sports gambling publication. Over the next 10 years, the company has expanded into a media empire valued at 450 million dollars. They employ nearly one-hundred bloggers, as hosting 25 podcasts, including Call Her Daddy and Pardon My Take, the 11th and 35th most popular podcasts on iTunes, respectively. The company has 8 million Instagram follower, most of whom are under 30. It makes sense then, that when the Twitter account Resist Programming (@RzstProgramming) released a slew of blatantly racist videos made by Portnoy in the company of other employees including Kevin “KFC” Clancy and Dan “Big Cat” Katz.

The video that gained the most traction was that of Portnoy explaining his thought process regarding Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protests in 2016. The full clip is below but in summary, Portnoy begins the segment stating, “So I’m gonna say something that’s racist”. Now, remember this because it is gonna come up later. Portnoy says that upon seeing Kaepernick kneel during the anthem, Portnoy believed he was “an ISIS guy”. This ridiculous statement was based off of Kaep’s skin color (he is mixed race) and his “terrorist beard”. Now, this is gross and racist but maybe it was an insensitive joke. Well, Resist Programming brought even more receipts. They posted a video of Portnoy rapping Ja Rule lyrics and heavily emphasizing the N-word.

On a podcast episode from 2Biggs titled “Now. Its. Gonna. Get. Extremely. Real.” (Look at what the letters spell out. I’m just gonna leave that up to you. We have a smart audience.), Barstool security guard Ebony details the recording of the Ja Rule video. Portnoy asked her opinion on if the video should be posted. Her response was obviously no, yet Portnoy ignored this and published it anyway. That, of course, the whole point. Dave Portnoy, and in reflection, the Company, has failed, or consciously decided, not to learn and grow in a meaningful way.

Barstool is no stranger to controversy and so-called cancel culture. In 2011, Portnoy wrote, “though I never condone rape if you’re a size 6 and you’re wearing skinny jeans you kind of deserve to be raped right?”. The site also had a running series focused on the “hotness” of female teachers who raped their students (no I am not linking an article here. If you are curious, look it up but I do not want to give them the clicks). Written by Jerry Thornton, the series ended in 2019, but its existence for nearly 3 years is absurd. Another issue brought up in the podcast was when Liz Gonzales, a Mexican American blogger and talk show host at Barstool, expressed her distaste with how Portnoy and Co. addressed Donald Trump’s former Campaign Manager reacted to learning of a child was treated at the Mexican border (Tweet on the right) .

The closest Barstool actually came to repercussions for their actions was when ESPN canceled their collaborative show “Van Talk” following NFL reporter Sam Ponder circulating a deeply misogynistic blog written by John Feitelberg and backed up by Portnoy. Barstool bounced back since the cancellation and has continued to grow in popularity. Also, last year, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called out Portnoy’s tweets that threatened to “crush” any unions that his employees would join. It goes beyond a satirical character when you are actively attempting to suppress the constitutional right to organize.

Portnoy’s response to Every. Single. One. of these controversies was to cite Barstool’s satirical nature. At the same time, he goes on White Nationalist Tucker Carlson’s (Ahh yes, my favorite. Read about that piece of garbage here) show to discuss Coronavirus or the Democratic debates. In 2011, a college organization protested Barstool’s normalization of rape culture in Boston. In his response to the protest, Portnoy wrote “College is too short to waste your time being a killjoy… Loosen up and fuck a broad. You may enjoy it. That’s me being a role model.” Portnoy fails to take accountability for his actions. Plain and simple. Even in his “Emergency Press Conferences” over the last few days about the videos, Portnoy blames the “haters” for spreading the videos while failing to grasp the fact that if he never put out the content in the first place or has ever once apologized in the past, this would not be happening right now. In the same video,

Portnoy claims that his attack on Kaepernick was not racist in 2016.

Remember what I told you to remember a few paragraphs back? Portnoy ACKNOWLEDGED THE STATEMENT WAS RACIST in the original video. As well as not apologizing to the public, Portnoy has struggled to even address his employees. Multiple speakers on the 2Biggs podcast addressed Dave’s handling of the situation where he essentially says he was sorry for offending his black employees. This, as pointed out by the podcasters, completely disregards the fact that the comment was incredibly racist towards Middle Easterners. Barstool prides itself on being equal opportunity offenders. This may work on shock-jock radio but when the company is as mainstream as Barstool, its time to tune it down a little.

This article has been incredibly draining to write. The blatant racism and misogyny present in much of Barstool’s content is hard to listen to, let alone write about in a way that doesn’t shit on the individual content creators who are innocent of this whole mess. As a whole as there is some serious talent there, especially in the podcasts. In response to the outrage, Dave made another video. In it, he attacks the “mob” as people who are just out to get him while claiming that he is “uncancelable”. Portnoy is a narcissist, plain and simple. He has a history of asking people their opinions, opinions that he as a rich white dude from Boston should consider and does the complete opposite. Throughout this whole saga, he has refused to apologize for his actions. His most recent “emergency press conference” again attacks those trying to cancel him while still saying he will listen to his employees. Of course, the reason he will listen to them is because he created the company where he lets them say whatever they want. This comes after making remarks, as reported in the 2Biggs podcast, where confronted about his remarks, Dave says he can do whatever he wants as he writes their checks. This is where I stand right now: Portnoy has got to go. He is the common denominator in almost all of the issues I have detailed. Big Cat wrote an article titled I Don't Think I'm Being Cancelled, I'm Just Being Held Responsible. If Dave is let go from the company, that is exactly what is happening. Being held accountable for years of documented bigotry finally catching up to him. It is a pretty obvious end result at this point, right? If the face of a company represents its worse tendencies, maybe it is time to change the face.

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