Media

ESPN Dropped Barstool Van Talk after One Episode

After a chaotic roll-out, the partnership with Barstool personalities Big Cat and PFT Commenter is over.

SCREENSHOT VIA TWITTER/@STOOLPRESIDENTE

Well, that was fast. After a chaotic month of bad press, ESPN has announced that it is cutting ties with Barstool Van Talk after just one episode.

The Disney-owned sports network likely knew it would court some controversy when it decided to collaborate with Barstool Sports, the raunchy, button-pushing sports blog-turned-empire that got its start in Boston. But after the immense baggage of the site—which is full of vulgar rants that have brought charges of sexism—led to backlash both externally and internally among network staff, ESPN rushed to cancel the show.

“Effective immediately, I am canceling Barstool Van Talk,” ESPN President John Skipper said in a statement posted to Twitter on Monday. “While we had approval on the content of the show, I erred in assuming we could distance our efforts from the Barstool site and its content. Apart from this decision, we appreciate the efforts of Big Cat and PFT Commenter. They delivered the show they promised.”

The show, which was supposed to recur weekly, aired just once, at 1 a.m. on Monday on ESPN2. Its stars were longtime Barstool personalities Dan “Big Cat” Katz and PFT Commenter, who host the popular sports and culture podcast Pardon My Take. It reportedly did well for its time slot.

The hosts released a statement on Twitter, saying they were “disappointed” and “heartbroken” by the news.

But a slew of controversies, centered mainly around pugnacious Barstool founder Dave Portnoy, seem to have sunk the show. Amid the attention that the new ESPN collaboration brought, word surfaced about a contract Barstool had been making its new hires sign, which required that they consent to being “exposed to offensive speech” and “conduct.” Sports commentator Elika Sadeghi revealed that she had turned down a job offer from the site when she saw the clause.

Portnoy sounded off about Sadeghi’s disclosure, calling her a “fraud” with a “big mouth,” and recorded a fiery defense of his team’s right to make “eatin’ ass jokes, 69 jokes, [and] Jew jokes” in the office. More unwanted attention came amid the fallout from Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault allegations, when a clip surfaced in which Portnoy posed a hypothetical question about men using positions of power to solicit sex.

Another dust-up came when current ESPN personality Sam Ponder railed against her network’s decision to partner with the controversial site, noting that Barstool had been vicious to her in the past. A recording from 2014 showed Portnoy called her a “fucking slut.”

Portnoy on Monday held what he called an “emergency press conference” to address Van Talk‘s sudden cancellation. In a speech, he said it he was disappointed about the move, railed against political correctness, and framed the news as a win, of sorts, for Barstool, because it highlighted the difference between his successful site and the mainstream sports network, which has seen its ratings sag.

“This is exactly, and I mean exactly, why Barstool Sports has to exist. It has to. Because we’re one of the few places, maybe the only place in the Internet where we don’t let agendas dictate what we do,” he said in the live-streamed speech. “For 15 years people who follow this company know we just talk, shoot the shit, try to be funny, don’t let PC America get the best of us and will continue to do that.”

He added, “How stupid were you to think you could get Barstool without getting Barstool?”


Spencer Buell Staff Writer at Boston Magazine sbuell@bostonmagazine.com


In This Section

Policy

Policy

Marijuana legalization, healthcare changes, and all the other referendums shaking up Mass.

Beyond Boston

Beyond Boston

Could You Be Owed Money?