Barstool Sports vs. ESPN and the hypocrisy of political agenda

By Owen Shannon

Opinion Contributor

Political agreement is more important than real issues today. Liberals and conservatives alike attempt to crucify whomever disagrees with them, yet do not hold their side to the same standard. This rabid bipartisanism has become more toxic and more hypocritical every day, but the liberals are the hypocrites when it comes to the recent drama between Barstool Sports and ESPN.

Barstool Sports and ESPN had an agreement to produce a late-night TV show, based on Barstool’s most successful podcast Pardon My Take, called Barstool Van Talk. The two companies had been at odds in the past, but the move was mostly seen as a way for ESPN to connect more with their audience. However, some employees at ESPN were not happy with this, the figurehead being Sam Ponder.

Barstool’s founder Dave Portnoy called Ponder a “slut” in a blog, after she tweeted, “Blogs/websites that constantly disrespect women and objectify their bodies, then take a strong stand on Ray Rice issue really confuse me.” What was a small feud then was brought back to the forefront the day before the premiere of the show. Ponder tweeted out the blog post, and chaos ensued. Portnoy owned up to his fault in using that word in reference to her, but defended his stance in the argument. The controversy caused offensive old tweets from Ponder to resurface, which she apologized for, and that was seemingly the end of it.

Now I completely understand both sides here. Portnoy’s comments are indefensible, especially by today’s standards. However, his anger towards Ponder in that moment is warranted in my mind. Her tweet essentially says that because they post pictures of women in swimsuits, they must also support domestic abuse. No matter your opinion on the content, that is an absurd, false equivalency. Unfounded accusations and implications like that can ruin lives with no basis. This controversy was bug spray on the fire that many people on the left had already started in opposition to Barstool’s non-PC nature.

The first episode of Barstool Van Talk aired last week, and the drama seemed to have settled. However, ESPN President John Skipper announced on Monday, Oct. 23, that the show was canceled and that they “erred in assuming we could distance our efforts from the Barstool site and its content.” Thus ending the week-long drama, right? Actually, this is only the beginning.

The night of Tuesday, Oct. 24, writer, model, and comedian Jenn Sterger came out with her story of being sexually harassed at ESPN. On top of these allegations, Sterger accused Ponder and Sarah Spain, another woman involved in the drama with Barstool, of victim-shaming her. Sterger even resurfaced old tweets and posts of the two harassing her. All of a sudden, the drama has been flipped on its head and ESPN became the enemy, but people are being much quieter about it.

There is an overwhelming desire to take down Barstool Sports at all costs. Many people claimed the moral high ground over Barstool, pleading to ESPN to cancel the show because they don’t like Barstool’s content. However, now that there are much worse allegations against ESPN, the same people are being very quiet.

For example, Deadspin wrote two misleading hit-pieces about Barstool Sports in the past two weeks, yet they have not written a piece about ESPN’s alleged sexual harassment. This is a curious decision seeing as they have had plenty of time and they have criticized ESPN plenty in the past. Last week they were making a concerted effort to take down Barstool, but have failed to address the ESPN allegations. Perhaps because it makes Barstool look better?

I have seen this more and more lately. Mainstream media takes shots at independents, especially if they portray any sort of conservative opinion. Another example being Colin Moriarty, an openly conservative games reporter who made a tongue-in-cheek sexist joke, which was referred to as “racist” by a headline in the International Business Times. This growing trend of hit-pieces against non-liberal people and organizations is incredibly troubling. Barstool was just the most recent victim because of their non-PC comedy and stereotypically male-oriented content, even though many of the members of Barstool often express liberal opinions.  

I am not some Barstool shill. I enjoy some of their content, such as their podcasts and pizza reviews, but ignore other aspects of their site. However, the concerted effort by mainstream media to take them down has been completely unfair. The attack against them has shown hypocrisy in many ways. What Portnoy said about Ponder was objectively wrong, but no one deserves to be condemned for a bad thing they said years ago because everyone has done it. The hit-pieces directed towards those who don’t follow a liberal agenda are much more hateful than any comedy Barstool has ever done.

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