Editorial Graphic Barstool

Editor’s note: This editorial was written by Collegian assistant sports editor, Jake Aferiat.

President and founder of Barstool Sports Dave Portnoy showed his true colors on Monday night when he appeared on Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight.

Portnoy went on the program to talk about a litany of issues surrounding an NBC News article, which detailed the company's perceived role in perpetuating a culture of "traditional masculinity." 

Among the people who offered their opinions on the subject was Dean of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, Marie Hardin.

In the NBC News story, Hardin said: “In many ways, Barstool has resisted some of the more progressive discourse around sports. And I think there’s a niche for that. There’s a market there and they’re able to capture that.”

While Portnoy seems to view that as a direct attack on his company and the content Barstool produces, it seems clear that the comment is more talking about societal ills that have allowed Barstool to thrive, as opposed to the company itself. 

Portnoy called out Hardin by name and challenged her to a debate to defend her comments, and even suggested he would donate $20,000 to Penn State THON if Hardin agreed to debate him.

The petulant gesture puts Hardin in a position where if she says “no,” she seems to be anti-THON, which isn't a fair message or characterization to portray. If she were to agree, she’d subject herself to more of the vitriol currently exploding on her latest Instagram post — which had 952 comments at the time this was published. Most of them are hateful. Here’s a selection from the comment section:

“Go get laid u miserable ..nothing better to do c you next Tuesday ..leave @barstoolsports alone.” 

“Get mucked, snowflake.”

“You bit off more than you can chew babe, sad you won’t have a conversation with a random conservative.”

If Portnoy is so willing to part with the $20,000, why not just donate the money outright instead of donating as leverage to have a debate?

Instead, he’s using the proposed donation to put Hardin in an awkward position and subject her to more of the nastiness Portnoy’s fans left on her page. 

Portnoy specifically took issue with Hardin's characterization of the company as not progressive, which Portnoy countered by flaunting the “1000’s of women” who've worked for the company.

Women make up half the population — it should not be seen as “progressive” that Barstool employs them.

It's also interesting that Portnoy felt the need to defend his company from Hardin's remarks and took not being progressive as a bad thing, when the content they put out and the market they've cornered capitalizes on — to put it bluntly — ‘bro’ culture.

Hardin then went on to ask if Barstool is "a reflection of our values or [if] it reinforce[s] our values?" She surmised that it's a combination of the two and said Barstool will continue to exist until it stops reflecting the current, yet traditional American sports culture.

Maybe on a debate stage Portnoy would reject that notion as well, but for Hardin, it doesn’t benefit her to engage with Portnoy in any fashion.

Any engagement on her part, whether it's a debate or releasing a statement on his comments, is a lose-lose scenario because a debate won't change any minds.

People who support Portnoy are going to support Portnoy even after hearing Hardin speak and conversely, people who side with Hardin will likely not be swayed by Portnoy's arguments either.

A Barstool-type platform was inevitable in the sense that it captured a niche in the market, but not inevitable from the sense that there are plenty of other sports and culture blogs and websites that look, read and sound nothing like Barstool.

But this isn't a referendum on Barstool. 

Instead, this is about Portnoy needlessly attacking Hardin because he can't take criticism about his website and its messages. This aggressiveness isn’t a far cry from other Barstool-affiliated platforms that will jump at any chance to belittle or objectify women.

There's a difference between attacking someone and disagreeing with them. Portnoy and his fans certainly crossed the line into attacking someone.

Whatever their reason, Hardin is right: Barstool is a reflection of our values and culture — and Portnoy should learn to take some semblance of criticism if he wants to continue to dish out hot takes and critique people himself.

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