When Boise State football faces center Michigan in the Arizona Bowl on New Years Eve, it will be the Idaho School’s 24th consecutive bowl game – the third longest such streak. in the country.
But in a first for any modern ball game, the game won’t be on television. The new title sponsor of the bowl, Sport Bar Stool, will broadcast the game on its platforms. Schools and conferences will be linked to this feed on their own sites.
Organizers say Barstool Sports’ online reach will attract more attention to the game than television could. But critics say the sports, games and culture site’s history of misogynistic and racist content should have disqualified it as a suitable sponsor.
Barstool Sports began at the end of the dot-com era as a Boston-based sports publication and blog, with sports stories directly adjacent to racy photos of women.
Founder Dave Portnoy called the site a combination of sports and smut; a “satirical sports and male lifestyle” publication. Blogs and podcasts such as “Call Her Daddy”, “Spittin ‘Chicklets” and “Office Chicks” feature prominently among sports content.
The site has a habit of posting worthy content, as this exchange of a 2012 interview between Portnoy and Lisa Guerrero from Inside Edition shows.
Guerrero: “You posted the following on your site: ‘I never approve of rape, but if you’re a size six and wearing skinny jeans, you somehow deserve to be raped?
Portnoy: “That’s right. I’m sticking to that. I think it’s a funny joke.”
Guerrero: “Do you think rape is funny?”
Portnoy: “No, I didn’t say that. I think it’s a funny joke.”
Guerrero: “Do you know how offensive that is? “
Portnoy: “No. I obviously don’t.”
Guerrero was asking Portnoy about a blog post on Barstool he made in 2010.
Mediamatters.org, an industry watchdog, lists over 75 instances of questionable content produced by Barstool since its inception. Reported content includes encouragement of harassment, promotion of unfounded conspiracy theories, misogyny, bigotry, sexism and discrimination.
Portnoy sold parts of the business in 2016 and 2018, but retains part of the ownership. Erika Nardini was hired as the organization’s first CEO after the 2016 sale. Women also hold several other leadership roles and create Barstool content including podcasts.
But the mere presence of women does not automatically mean that Barstool Sports supports and advances women’s issues – especially sport – said Christopher Garcia.
“They had that kind of list of women working there, but they weren’t necessarily working on sports pieces,” he said.
Garcia is a doctoral student at Florida State University. This year, with FSU Communication Professor Jennifer Proffitt, Garcia wrote a research paper on Barstool Sports, specifically examining how the site undermines female-led narratives in sports media.
“They’re kind of convinced that ‘what gets the odds gets the clicks’, and it’s not usually a women’s sport,” he said.
Garcia writes that while the commoditization and sexualization of women’s sports in mainstream sports media has diminished over the past decades, much of Barstool’s content attempts to defend and reaffirm the traditional masculinity of sport.
The site tries to hide its misogyny, he said, behind a veil of fairness.
“It’s not a feminist narrative, but a post-feminist narrative to say, ‘Oh, we are beyond feminism. We’re at that next level: if you’re good enough, if you’re funny enough, if you can work at Barstool, no matter who you are, you’ll be successful, ”Garcia said. .
Barstool’s problematic story led the Pima County Board of Directors, home of the Arizona Bowl, to pull $ 40,000 in public funding from this year’s game. In a 4-1 vote, supervisors also called on the game to remove any mention of Pima County from its marketing.
“I think many members of our community will not feel involved in the event because of the actions and words of the Barstool Sports employees,” County Supervisor Rex Scott said at a meeting in August. .
Instead, county supervisors will shift this funding to local domestic violence support programs.
Arizona Bowl contracts with Mountain West and Mid-American conferences. A statement from Mountain West officials said the conference did not endorse or endorse the sponsors of the boules games. But the day before the Arizona Bowl and Barstool sponsorship deal was announced, Mountain West Deputy Commissioner Bret Gilliland sent an email to conference presidents and sports leaders.
The email, obtained upon request for registration, attempted to allay any concerns about the sponsorship, noting the contractual arrangements in place related to the discomfort with certain elements of the Barstool Sports brand, and that Barstool was committed to performing its sponsorship and distribution arrangements for games in an appropriate manner.
In a telephone conversation, Arizona Bowl executive director Kym Adair declined to give details of the bowl’s contract with Barstool Sports; saying only that it was a multi-year deal and that the company would be required to follow FCC and NCAA rules during the broadcast, as any television network would.
She said the game will feature personalities from Barstool throughout the broadcast, but exactly which personalities have not been announced. Old Creed lead singer Scott Stapp is scheduled to perform at halftime.
For its part, Boise State has only said that it does not choose which boules game it can play. University president Dr Marlene Tromp has not commented publicly; a registration request did not provide any other email to or from Boise State regarding the Arizona Bowl sponsorship.
The other schools did not remain so calm. At the Mountain West conference, San Diego State Athletic Director John David Wicker expressed concern on sponsorship of the San Diego Union Tribune in November.
The Central Michigan University student newspaper, the Bronco’s Arizona bowl opponent, reported This month, its faculty members were concerned about the relationship between the bowl and Barstool Sports and how participation in the game might impact the school.
After a multi-day exchange of email requests, Barstool Sports representatives said on Tuesday that CEO Nardini declined an interview about the game.
Portnoy is involved in a new controversy, following a month of November report in Business Insider alleging consensual sex with three women in their early twenties. They say dating has become scary and humiliating. Portnoy, 44, said the encounters were misconstrued and he threatened legal action against the publication, although his own lawyer told him he would likely lose in court.
Adair, the Arizona Bowl manager, championed the partnership and highlighted the millions of dollars in charitable work Barstool has done, and the charitable impact the bowl game, created in 2015, has on its community. She said that Barstool in the past might not have “picked up all the jokes”, but she is convinced that they have matured.
She’s also confident fans won’t have a harder time finding the game’s stream than loading a favorite Netflix or YouTube show.
“We feel like we’re at the forefront of the way we deliver content,” she said. “[Streaming] is the way people watch a lot of content, and it’s going to continue that way. “
Fans will find the game on Barstool’s online and social media platforms, as well as online outlets at participating schools and conferences. Adair said this year’s game could easily have a larger audience than CBS, which released the game last year.
Last week, USA Today reported that CBS had refused to broadcast the Arizona Bowl with Barstool Sports as the title sponsor.
Boise State faces center Michigan at the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl on December 31.
A previous version incorrectly stated that Portnoy retained a majority stake in the company. The Chernin Group bought a controlling stake in 2016 and 2018. In 2020, the Chernin Group sold a 36% stake in Barstool Sports to Penn Gaming.