Website Barstool Sports has been called misogynist, racist and a cyber bully. It’s also the latest sponsor of the NZ Breakers basketball team. Madeleine Chapman has a browse through their content to see if they’re a good fit.
The New Zealand Breakers have a “no dickheads” policy. It was instituted by previous owners Paul and Liz Blackwell and referred to the team culture. No selfish players, no divas, “no dickheads”. The policy was enforced predominantly when hiring and firing players but it applied to fans too. Over the years, Breakers games have become a family outing staple, and much of their appeal has been the attention to children as fans at the games.
New CEO and co-owner Matt Walsh this week reiterated that the Breakers are still the same family-friendly organisation, despite this season’s playing uniforms prominently displaying the logo of new sponsor Barstool Sports, a logo that many believe is stained by examples of misogyny, racism, and harassment.
Barstool Sports is a comedy sports website launched in 2007 by David Portnoy. Since its inception, Barstool has catered to the lowest of brows in sports fandom. Portnoy himself has been involved in a number of controversies around his comments about rape and his tendency to direct his fans’ ire towards those who dare criticise him or his website.
Here in New Zealand, Walsh has staunchly defended Portnoy and Barstool. “We partnered with Barstool because I have a relationship with them and I believe that they’re good people in their heart,” he told the NZ Herald. “At the end of they day they produce comedic content 24/7 and it is satirical in nature.”
It’s just satire! It’s not what we’re really like! But a scroll through Barstool reveals that much of what it publishes is not satire, and not comedy. It’s just gross. And to claim that it is a satirical website is beyond disingenuous.
“Guess That Ass” and “Guess That Rack” were two regular series that were discontinued at the end of 2016. The “articles” consisted of a thumbnail image showing a woman’s “ass” or “rack” and when clicked through, revealed a photo essay of what can only be described as softcore porn images of the same woman.
The pictures section of the website is almost entirely dedicated to “Barstool Smokeshow” [smokeshow meaning very ‘hot’ woman], where readers submit Instagram profiles to be featured. The profiles are often of women who have not consented to their photos (almost always bikini shots) being published on the site.
A series that is ongoing (in fact, the latest instalment was published yesterday) is “Grading The Newest Sex Scandal Teacher”, written by middle-aged man Jerry Thornton. Thornton grades female teachers who have been accused or convicted of statutory rape with a student on their looks and “moral compass” (the more inappropriate things the teacher did, the higher the grade) before issuing a final grade, usually with an allusion to whether he “would”. There are over 200 articles currently on Barstool with the headline “Grading The Newest Sex Scandal Teacher”.
Walsh surely knows this. Three Barstool employees – Dan Katz, Eric Sollenberger and Henry Lockwood – are part of the new Breakers ownership group and presumably whom Walsh was referring to when he said, “I’m proud to be associated with a brand like Barstool because I know those guys and I know what they stand for.” Sollenberger, known by Barstool fans – or “stoolies” – as PFT Commenter, is perhaps the closest thing to a bridge from the PC-hating fanbase of Barstool and the rest of the world. He is one of few outward facing Barstool personalities to avoid massive controversy but has avoided commenting on most of the actions of his colleagues. Most of those actions have come from founder and “El Presidente” (self-named) Portnoy.
Portnoy’s transgressions were referenced by Niall Anderson in a NZ Herald article, particularly his 2010 comment “If you’re a size 6 and you’re wearing skinny jeans you kind of deserve to be raped right?”
Walsh didn’t address this comment directly but in responding to concerns voiced about Barstool’s involvement as a Breakers sponsor, he said it “would be very easy to take quotes from any comedian in the world or a lot of different people and take stuff out of context, put it up and say ‘Hey, aren’t these people really bad people’. And I think that’s what’s happening here.”
Have those quotes been cherry picked and taken out of context? I put on my goggles and had a look. This is what I found.
In a now-deleted post, and therefore lacking ~full~ context, Portnoy has been quoted as saying
“[E]ven 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? I mean skinny jeans don’t look good on size 0 and 2 chicks, nevermind size 6′s. Because unless you’re Jessica Biel they just totally smother the ass. So it’s almost like this guy had no choice but to teach her a lesson.”
ESPN’s Sam Ponder tweeted the following after NFL player Ray Rice was shown on tape beating his wife in an elevator.
“Blogs/websites that constantly disrespect women & objectify their bodies, then take a strong stand on the Ray Rice issue really confuse me.”
Barstool responded with this.
Big Cat: Let’s go on this rant here for a second. There’s no one worse right now than Samantha Ponder. She is the absolute worst. I hate-follow her on Twitter. I can’t even stand her. Every time she tweets I want to puke all over my computer. Every second that she can tell you that she has a kid and that she’s a working mother, she will tell you that she has a kid and that she’s a working mother.
She’s fucking bringing her kid to the Grove [a large shopping centre in Los Angeles].
Portnoy: I know for a fact that every day at ESPN, all the suits and all the lawyers, they have their annual – not annual, daily – their daily 9:15 coffee meeting on how can we fire Sam Ponder without being sued for like discrimination. Because she is the worst.
No person watching GameDay wants to see a picture of her and her ugly kid. Nobody cares Sam Ponder. We want to see you sex it up and be slutty and not see some prude fucking jerk who everybody hates and who’s married to the worst quarterback who wears the ring and “God first” and this and that. Shut up. That’s not what you’re there for.
And ESPN just can’t find out how to fire you. Because they hate you. Because everyone who watches you hates you. Because all you do is talk about your little rat kid that nobody wants to hear about.
Big Cat: (laughing) Your little rat kid. Show me one person who likes Sam Ponder. I don’t even think Christian Ponder likes Sam Ponder.
Portnoy: She’s the most despised person in the world.
Portnoy: And Sam Ponder, you fucking slut. I don’t want you at these games being super prude and talking about God and religion and how your kid is so awesome and breastfeeding when I’m watching GameDay. I don’t want that.
Barstool’s Rundown podcast (co-hosted by Katz) invited departing young intern Dana onto the show to answer “one burning question”. The burning question was whether or not she knew that multiple guys in the office were “trying to fuck” her.
Katz: The one thing you’ve got to learn is when a guy’s trying to fuck you.
KFC (co-host): They all are, at all times. Every time they’re going to be trying to fuck you.
Barstool’s Rundown podcast invited Fox Sports Florida sideline reporter Emily Austen to guest. She said a lot of things, including that she “didn’t even know that Mexicans were that smart” and “the Chinese guy is always the smartest guy in math class” before complaining that “the Jews” were always complaining when she worked as a waitress.
Portnoy said his girlfriend cheated on him with her SoulCycle instructor. To retaliate, Portnoy created a lot of content around what he named #CuckCycle, even selling t-shirts with the name. His many fans trolled SoulCycle’s social media until they were forced to disable comments on Instagram and send out a notice to all New York employees to watch out for Barstool fans who had threatened to disrupt their classes. Portnoy of course tweeted about it.
Barstool’s Chris Spagnuolo wrote a post headlined “Is Rihanna Going To Make Being Fat The Hot New Trend?” lamenting Rihanna’s alleged weight gain. In it, he said,
“With all the fat acceptance and ‘love me as I am’ crowd, there’s definitely a world where I could see chicks see Rihanna make some strong ‘I don’t give a fuck I just love pizza’ quote that goes viral and bam we’re in a world where all the hottest girls look like the humans in Wall-E. And just in time for summer too. A world of ladies shaped like the Hindenburg loaded into one-piece bathing suits may be on the horizon now that Rihanna is traipsing around out there looking like she’s in a sumo suit. It’s a dangerous precedent and you may want to start adjusting your porn browsing to primarily BBW porn to condition yourself to this dystopian future we now face.”
The post was later deleted and Portnoy’s explanation was
“There are just certain topics that you better nail if you’re gonna write about them because you know they are hot button issues for us. So if you’re gonna blog about Rihanna gaining weight you better be funny as fuck and you better make it bullet proof.
“Truthfully the facts are there is a double standard at this company. If Big Cat or PFT or KFC or I write this blog I’ll defend it to the death… And I’ve been doing this long enough to know that somewhere down the line this blog will be dug up again and used as an example of our extreme sexism.”
It was announced that Katz and Sollenberg’s popular podcast “Pardon My Take” was set to be turned into a show on ESPN. ESPN’s Sam Ponder opposed her company’s pairing with Barstool, because of the aforementioned comments by Portnoy and Katz about her and her child. The show was cancelled after one week.
During a Barstool Radio show, hosts Dallas Braden, Patrick Connor, and Brody Stevens discussed then 17 year old Chloe Kim’s achievements at the Winter Olympics and said this.
Stevens: Me, personally, I’m on Twitter, I see Chloe Kim, I’m thinking Khloe Kardashian, Kim [Kardashian], I don’t want to deal with that. So I missed out on the whole Chloe Kim thing. But it’s a good story. She’s into it, a little kid – I’m inspired by it.
Braden: Chloe Kim, famous for riding a very different board than Kim Kardashian.
Connor: No doubt, and in fact just to keep it on that tip, her 18th birthday is April 23, and the countdown is on baby, ’cause I got my Wooderson going. “That’s what I like about them high school girls.”
Stevens: I love it P-Con, I’m right there with you.
Connor: She’s fine as hell! If she was 18, you wouldn’t be ashamed to say that she’s a little hot piece of ass. And she is. She is adorable. I’m a huge Chloe Kim fan.
Braden [laughing]: That’s it.
Stevens [laughing]: Did you just take a boner pill?
Portnoy filmed a Barstool employee in the shower without his consent and published the footage. The employee complained and the post was removed, but not before Portnoy tweeted this.
Portnoy argued with 20 year old employee Ria Ciuffo on a Barstool show after saying that “she’s not going to be able to put her face in front of a camera in five years, because people will throw up.” When confronted by Ciuffo, Portnoy doubled down. “I will not apologise. There is no apology coming for that.” When it was clear Ciuffo had started crying, “Ria’s crying now? Get out of here. It’s obviously a fucking joke, if you can’t take a joke then don’t walk in here.”
When chastised by his co-hosts that Ciuffo thought he would apologise, Portnoy responded, “well then she doesn’t know me very well.”
Daily Beast writer Robert Silverman was compiling a report on Barstool and an alleged culture of sexual harassment. Silverman reached out to Portnoy through a representative for comment. Portnoy tweeted a screenshot of the email, including Silverman’s phone number, to his 740,000 followers, who then flooded his voicemail with abusive messages.
The feud between Portnoy and Ponder flared up again when Ponder said on her Instagram that she didn’t ask for Barstool’s ESPN show to be cancelled. Portnoy and Katz claimed she was lying. There is now a t-shirt available in the Barstool online store showing Ponder with a clown nose.
There’s surely a sports team out there whose values align with those of Barstool and whose fans would embrace the site wholeheartedly. The Breakers, with their carefully-managed image as a family organisation, are not that team.
The Breakers have long had a “no dickheads” policy. It’s a shame they’re now a walking advertisement for Barstool, its following, and Portnoy. In other words, a lot of people who fall neatly under the umbrella of “dickheads”.
The Breakers management have been approached for comment.
Subscribe to Rec Room a weekly newsletter delivering The Spinoff’s latest videos, podcasts and other recommendations straight to your inbox.