Barstool Sports

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Barstool Sports
Type of site
Blog
FoundedSeptember 2003; 20 years ago (September 2003)
Milton, Massachusetts
HeadquartersNew York City
Country of originUnited States of America
OwnerDavid Portnoy
Founder(s)David Portnoy
URLbarstoolsports.com
Current statusActive

Barstool Sports is an American blog website and digital media company headquartered in New York City that publishes sports journalism and pop culture-related content. It is owned by David Portnoy, who founded the company in 2003 in Milton, Massachusetts.

History[edit]

Launch and growth (2003–2016)[edit]

Barstool began in 2003 as a weekly print publication distributed for free at transit stops in the Boston metropolitan area that offered gambling advertisements and fantasy sports projections, but later expanded to encompass other topics. It launched on the Internet in 2007.[1] [2] The site was headquartered in Milton, Massachusetts, identifiable with a cardboard sign with the site's name written in ballpoint pen.[1]

Portnoy hired Kevin Clancy in 2009 and launched Barstool New York, the blog's first major move outside the Boston area. Barstool ceased publication of the print version in 2010 and transitioned to a web-only model.[1]

By 2013, Barstool Sports had expanded to five cities, including Philadelphia and Chicago, with a university-focused BarstoolU brand. Each franchise had its own editorial staff and voice and operated essentially autonomously from the main Barstool Sports blog. The blogger team published around 70 to 80 posts each weekday. According to Entrepreneur.com in December 2013, more than 4 million unique users visited Barstool each month, with more than 80 million page views.[1]

Barstool Blackout Tour[edit]

In 2011 and 2012, the BarstoolU brand ran the "Barstool Blackout Tour", a series of electronic dance parties with as many as 2,500 attendees at venues in cities and college towns on the East Coast and in the Midwest.[3] The parties were criticized for promoting excessive drinking and allowing underage drinking, as well as for assaults that have happened at the proceedings.[4] In February 2012, Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino expressed concern through a spokesperson over the parties' promotion of "excessive drinking to the point of blacking out" and that such promotion would not be a good message for the city.[4] Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission agents and club security at a House of Blues event in Boston the following month confiscated 300 fake identifications and refused admission for around three-fourths of the event's 2000 ticket holders.[5] Shortly thereafter Portnoy announced that the company would not be scheduling more of the events in Boston, stating that "it just doesn't seem like Boston is friendly to nightlife of our sort, at least".[5]

The Chernin Group investment (2016–2020)[edit]

By 2016, Barstool claimed to pull in 250 million views per month.[6] On January 7, 2016, private equity firm The Chernin Group (TCG) purchased a 51% majority stake of Barstool Sports, valuing the company at between $10 and $15 million.[6][7][8] According to Chernin Group president of digital Mike Kerns, Kerns was put in contact with Portnoy via mutual friend and former University of Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen. After an initial phone call, Kerns flew to Boston to have dinner with Portnoy, discuss the Barstool vision, and begin preliminary investment talks.[9]

Following the TCG investment, the company moved its headquarters from Boston to New York City. Portnoy continued to run the site and retained complete creative control as Chief of Content. On July 19, 2016, Erika Nardini, former chief marketing officer of AOL, was announced as the CEO of Barstool Sports.[6] In 2020, Chernin relinquished control of Barstool as part of the Penn National Gaming partnership.

During the week of Super Bowl LI, Barstool broadcast a televised version of The Barstool Rundown live from Houston on Comedy Central.[10] The show made headlines on February 2, 2017, after Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee announced during a segment of that night's episode that he was retiring from the NFL to become a contributor to the site.[11] On June 19, 2017, the site announced that Michael Rapaport would be joining Barstool Sports and hosting a podcast.[12] Rapaport and Barstool quickly ended their relationship in a public feud involving Kevin Durant.[13]

On October 18, Barstool Van Talk debuted on ESPN2. The show starred Pardon My Take personalities PFT Commenter and Dan "Big Cat" Katz. It was cancelled after one episode, with ESPN Inc. president John Skipper citing concerns about distinguishing the content of Barstool from that of ESPN.[14] The show's removal came after past statements from Barstool president Dave Portnoy resurfaced, one of which involved calling current ESPN employee Sam Ponder a "slut".[15][16][17]

Following a round of fundraising reported in January, Barstool is said to have received a valuation of $100 million. According to CEO Erika Nardini, The Chernin Group has invested $25 million in the website.[18] On February 18, Michael Rapaport was fired after making a derogatory comment towards the site's fan-base.[19]

On March 28, 2018, NBA player Frank Kaminsky launched a Barstool podcast, Pros and Joes, hosted by himself and three of his high-school friends.[20]

Penn National Gaming investment and purchase (2020–2023)[edit]

On January 29, 2020, casino company Penn National Gaming (now Penn Entertainment) purchased a 36% stake in Barstool Sports for $163 million in cash and stock, valuing Barstool at $450 million. Penn National would have the option to pay an additional $62 million in 3 years to increase its stake to 50%. At that time, Penn National and Barstool had options that would increase the casino company's stake to control or full ownership, based on fair market value at the time. According to Vox Media, Barstool generated between $90 and $100 million in revenue in 2015, with the majority from podcasts, merchandise sales, and gambling deals. Penn's investment was seen as part of a growing trend of gambling and media companies to partner to capitalize on an anticipated boom in online gambling after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed sports betting in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association.[21][22] Following the sale, The Chernin Group maintained a 36% stake in the company.[23]

The company launched Barstool Sportsbook, a mobile application for sports betting, in Pennsylvania on September 18, 2020. During its first week of operation, it handled $11 million in wagers. In January 2021, the company announced that the Sportsbook would be expanding to the state of Michigan. Penn National announced that they would be matching all first-time deposits by donating to the Barstool Fund, raising a total of $4,550,280 for Michigan small businesses.[24][25][26] As of January 2023, the application is available in the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, Virginia, New Jersey, Tennessee, Arizona, Iowa, West Virginia, Louisiana, Ohio and Maryland.

On July 27, 2021, Barstool Sports was announced as the new title sponsor of the Arizona Bowl. The company will have exclusive international broadcast rights for the game for the duration of its contract.[27] The 2021 edition of the Arizona Bowl was to be played at Arizona Stadium in Tucson on December 31.[28] The game was canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The 2022 Barstool Arizona Bowl was played on December 30, 2022, with the Ohio Bobcats defeating the Wyoming Cowboys 30–27,[29] and featured various Barstool Sports media personalities on commentary and in on field roles.[30]

On September 28, 2021, Barstool Sports partnered with Happi Foodi, a frozen meal brand, and launched a new line of ready-to-heat pizzas branded as One Bite Pizzas. One Bite Pizzas was initially launched in 3,500 Walmart stores, in addition to being made available via the One Bite App and online at walmart.com, freshdirect.com, and happifoodi.com.[31]

In February 2023, Penn exercised its option to buy the remaining portion of the company for $388 million and become the sole owner of Barstool Sports.[32]

Repurchase by David Portnoy (2023)[edit]

On August 8, 2023, David Portnoy announced that Penn Entertainment had ended its relationship with Barstool Sports and had divested ownership of the company back to him. Penn had announced a $2 billion agreement with ESPN to rebrand Barstool Sportsbook as ESPN Bet, and the sale was intended to relieve Penn of "non-compete and other restrictive covenants" tied to its ownership of Barstool. Portnoy stated that "the regulated industry is probably not the best place for Barstool Sports and the type of content we make". The agreement stipulates that Penn will receive 50% of the gross proceeds of any future sale of Barstool, but Portnoy stated that he planned to maintain his ownership of the site "till I die".[33][34]

On 11 February 2024, Barstool Sports and DraftKings finalized a multi-year sports betting media partnership, following the conclusion of the Super Bowl and the termination of Barstool's previous non-compete clause with PENN Entertainment. This deal, celebrated by Barstool's founder Dave Portnoy on social media, kicked off with a live-streamed free-throw challenge event featuring Barstool talent, where viewers had the chance of winning part of a $100,000 prize pool.[35]

Content and audience[edit]

In 2013, Barstool was described as the "Bible of Bro Culture" and a must-read for the "dude zeitgeist" for its committed audience of young men, primary in the 18-35 age demographic, who felt disenfranchised by the mainstream media.[1] Portnoy has described the site's topics as "sports/smut."[36] The site contains a mixture of podcasts, blogs, and video series featuring company staff in what has been described as "a sort of online reality show: Every office argument and personal-life development was written up and fed to a growing legion of 'Stoolies'."[37] The site is popular among professional athletes as well. Logan Couture claimed that a quarter of players in the NHL read Barstool.[1] Barstool Sports announced in January of 2024 that they are partnering with Rumble.com[38]

Radio[edit]

In January, the company premiered Barstool Radio, a daily two-hour show on Sirius XM. The partnership expanded to a 24-hour channel in January 2018, which aired until January 2021.[39][40][41][42] Barstool returned to radio in February 2021 with a daily sports betting-themed show called Barstool Sports: Picks Central, distributed by Westwood One.[43]

Personalities[edit]

Portnoy, Barstool's founder, is an active blogger on the site under his self-appointed El Presidente character. He is also known as "The Mogul" and "Davey Pageviews".[1] Notable former employees include Kat Timpf, Jenna Marbles,[44] Pat McAfee, Dallas Braden, Paul Lo Duca, Michael Rapaport, Terry Rozier,[45] Frank Kaminsky, A. J. Hawk, Asa Akira, Willie Colon, Julie Stewart-Binks,[46] and Alexandra Cooper. Also Nick and KB

Podcasts[edit]

Barstool also produces numerous podcasts, including programming from David Portnoy, Spittin' Chiclets, Pardon My Take, The Kirk Minihane Show, Chicks in the Office as well as podcasts from Barstool bloggers and professional athletes and celebrities such as Deion Sanders, Alex Rodriguez, Josh Richards, Ryan Whitney, Paul Bissonnette, Colby Armstrong, Patrick Beverley, Jake Arrieta, Arian Foster, Paddy Pimblett, Molly McCann, Jim Florentine, Jamie Dukes, Taylor Lewan, Will Compton, and Mark Titus.[47]

Rough N Rowdy[edit]

In November 2017, Barstool purchased the Rough N Rowdy Brawl, an amateur boxing competition held in West Virginia as part of an expansion into live boxing events and pay-per-view. After the acquisition, Barstool created a new division called Barstool Brawl to put on as many as 12 events per year.[48] By the competition's second iteration after the Barstool acquisition in February 2018, it drew 41,000 buys.[49]

Over-the-top media[edit]

Barstool offers streaming and Video on Demand content, which is available on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Android TV.[50] The Yak is a daily live show with a variety of Barstool personalities including Big Cat (Dan Katz), Rone (Adam Ferrone), Nick & KB (Nick Turani & Kyle Bauer), Kate Mannion, Lil Sasquatch, Brandon Walker, Mark Titus, Connor Mook, and Steven Cheah sitting around a studio and talking about random subjects. The show is televised live on YouTube and later made available as a podcast. In 2021, SLING TV announced an exclusive channel for Barstool Sports.[51] The Brandon Walker College Football Show featuring Brandon Walker is a live call-in show that is part of the Sling TV Barstool channel.[52]

Charitable work[edit]

For Veterans Day in 2012, Barstool readers donated $15,000 in less than 24 hours to purchase a new wheelchair for a U.S. Army medic who had lost limbs in Afghanistan.[1] In the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the site raised $240,000 for the victims of the attack.[53][54]

In April 2017, listeners of the Barstool Podcast, Pardon My Take, raised over $50,000 for the Justin J. Watt Foundation.[55]

Barstool donated $150,000 to the family of a Weymouth, Massachusetts police officer who was killed on duty in July 2018.[56][57]

The company partnered with NFL quarterback Baker Mayfield in 2018 to release a clothing line benefiting Special Olympics Ohio.[58][59]

In November 2019, Barstool Sports donated $182,000, including a $91,000 matching donation from Portnoy, for a Veteran's Day fundraising campaign for mental health and PTSD.[60]

In February 2024, Portnoy donated $277,000 to the LifeLine Animal Project, an animal shelter in Atlanta, Georgia. The money was generated from T-shirt, hoodie, and hat sales on the Barstool Sports website themed after Miss Peaches, a dog that Portnoy adopted from the shelter.[61]

After NYPD officer Jonathan Diller was killed while on-duty in March 2024, Portnoy raised upward of $1.5 million for Diller's family, including $750,000 raised through a T-shirt sale on the Barstool Sports website and a $750,000 matching donation from Portnoy.[62]

Barstool Fund[edit]

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and related government restrictions, Barstool launched The Barstool Fund, a fundraising non-profit which provides financial support to small business owners across the United States.[63][64] Over 200,000 people contributed to the fund and over $41 million has been raised. Many celebrities such as Tom Brady, Guy Fieri, Kid Rock, Aaron Rodgers and Elon Musk have given to the fund, on top of an initial $500,000 donation from Portnoy.[65][66]

Controversies[edit]

Baby photo comments[edit]

In August 2011, the site received criticism over nude photos of American football quarterback Tom Brady's two-year-old son, which was accompanied by comments describing the size of the child's genitalia, which a former prosecutor suggested was sexualization of a minor.[67] Portnoy argued that the comments were meant to be humorous in tone and were not intended to be seen as sexual.[67]

Rape comments[edit]

Critics allege that comments on the site by Portnoy and others normalize rape culture. Comments that have sparked debate include a post on a 2010 blog in which Portnoy said "[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?"[68] Other elements that have received criticism include comments such as "we don't condone rape of any kind at our Blackout Parties ... however if a chick passes out that's a gray area".[69] Portnoy, in response, has stated that, "...It's not our intent, with jokes, to poke fun at rape victims," while pointing out the satirical nature of the site's content.[70] A Northeastern University protest group called Knockout Barstool held a demonstration outside of a 2012 Blackout party at Boston's House of Blues.[71] Portnoy has been openly dismissive of the protest group, referring to them as "serial protesters", "nutbags" and "crazy bitches".[68][69][72]

Copyright issues[edit]

According to The Daily Beast, Barstool has a culture of stealing materials from independent content creators and reposting them without attribution.[73] In March 2019, Barstool was accused by comedian Miel Bredouw of having re-posted one of her videos to the site's Twitter account without attribution. After Bredouw eventually refused to rescind her complaint in exchange for $2,000, Barstool filed a counter-claim asking Twitter to reinstate the video, alleging that the take-down was an error.[74][75] Following the dispute, data from Social Blade revealed that on March 6, 2019, Barstool deleted over 60,000 posts from its Twitter account and 1,000 posts from its Instagram account.[76]

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External links[edit]