What’s Next for Barstool Sports After ESPN2 Split

Upstart sports media network is capitalizing on tiff with ESPN.

Barstool Sports
Barstool Sports founder David Portnoy looks on prior to the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 7, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
By David Kiefaber / November 18, 2017 10:00 am

Barstool Sports may have been dropped by ESPN2, but that hasn’t affected their hustle or irreverent attitude, according to the New York Times.

With a popular website and a Sirius XM radio show, along with numerous related podcasts and blog posts, Barstool keeps themselves busy. Their tone is purposely coarse and satirical, in response to what they consider ESPN‘s overly-sanitized and bland sports presentation. Barstool intern Noah Ives told the New York Times that, while he watched a lot of ESPN in college,  “Barstool is just a cooler brand that people my age just respect more … the takes are just much more relatable. It’s like [company founder Dave Portnoy] says — Barstool is by the common man, for the common man.”

This “common man” approach may capture an audience that thinks more mainstream sports networks are too PC, but it is not without controversy. Barstool has been widely criticized for, among other things, publishing and mocking nude photos of Tom Brady’s infant son, and making rape jokes in connection with their infamous Blackout Tour parties (which have been criticized for allowing underage drinking and other offenses).

In fact, their often disrespectful attitudes toward women are what got them kicked off ESPN2. Shortly after Barstool was brought on for their Van Talk program, Sunday NFL Countdown host Sam Ponder revealed Barstool blog posts calling her a “Bible-thumping freak” whose job should be to “make men hard.” Another source found audio of Portnoy himself taking aim at Ponder on a Barstool podcast, urging her to be more “slutty.” ESPN cut ties with Barstool almost immediately.

But, like most situations where an established media entity banishes an upstart, Barstool has seized this as a branding opportunity. Leaning harder on a sports fan audience that fancies itself as apolitical, Barstool is presenting itself as an outlet for people who want to talk about sports in a vacuum and make fun of things as they see fit.

“We’re not going to let Mickey Mouse push us around,” Portnoy said about ESPN. “There is actually nothing that ESPN could have done to [better] illustrate why we are rising and they are falling.”