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If Black Lives Matter, Dave Portnoy Must Be Cancelled

“In a defining time for racism in America, Barstool Sports — and partners such as NASCAR and Penn National — risk permanent brand damage if they don’t separate immediately from the site’s hatemongering founder, Dave Portnoy.”

Jay Mariotti

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To describe Dave Portnoy as despicable only skims the word choices. He’s a hatemonger and a sicko, no other way to put it, and after taking five showers in stooping to write about him, I am tempted to hire a killer shark to devour his every body part, including a penis if he has one, recalling his career-propelling stunt of posting naked photos of Tom Brady’s then-2-year-old son.

He has used the N-word liberally, approved of blackface costumes and said Colin Kaepernick bears a strong resemblance to Osama bin Laden, referring to the quarterback-turned-activist as “an ISIS guy … Throw a head wrap on this guy, he’s a terrorist.’’ These glimpses of sub-humanity were from 2016 videos that have resurfaced, one in which he belts out Ja Rule’s “Livin’ It Up’’ thusly: “To all my n——-s I’ve been living it up.’’ This is the nutbag who referred to ESPN’s Sam Ponder as “a f—— slut’’ and urged her to “sex it up and be slutty.’’ You wonder what this creep does and says on an hourly basis, an experience from which I’m saved as someone who ignores his digital operation, Barstool Sports.

As always, Portnoy excuses his racism as comedy and satire, a copout Charles Manson could have tapped, I suppose. Like other megalomaniacs, he is too far gone for help. But what disturbs me is how media companies and sports leagues have embraced his brand of fungal disease without regard for the stench they’re inheriting. Peter Chernin, a film producer and former Fox TV executive, enabled Portnoy by buying majority control of Barstool in 2016. ESPN, in another hazy stab during the John Skipper era, tried a late-night show called “Barstool Van Talk’’ that lasted one episode following a Bristol revolt. Inevitably, a gambling company chased the same crude-dude demographic, with Penn National Gaming Inc. spending $163 million in January for a 36 percent stake.

DiBenedetto Finishes 21st at Las Vegas Sunday Night

Then there’s hypocritical NASCAR, which spent millions last year on a Barstool marketing partnership and only bought itself a perception crisis at the worst possible time. The circuit took a historic step in separating from its racist past in the recent drivers’ march that supported black racer Bubba Wallace, yet the relationship with Portnoyism continues, somehow, which is akin to tying a noose in Wallace’s garage. Here was NASCAR’s statement after the death of George Floyd: “While our sport has made progress over the years, there remains much work to be done and we fully embrace our responsibility to help bridge the racial divide that continues to exist in our country. We must do better, and our commitment to promoting equality and inclusion continues and will never waver.’’

Except when keeping a business pact with a racist.

There is no more obvious conclusion, along with water being wet and the sun being warm, than this: Portnoy should be immediately removed from the company he founded before Barstool is tagged permanently as a racist shop. And while I sense he’ll need to be strapped to a gurney and sedated while hauled away by 10 men in white suits, perhaps a company coup finally was set in motion Thursday against the man-child who claims he’s “uncancellable.’’ A Barstool host who calls himself PFT Commenter, from a show called “Pardon My Take,’’ ripped Portnoy for not considering the company’s minority employees when he refused to apologize this week  — “I’m not gonna bend the knee,’’ he said — for his past comments.

“When I saw that clip of ignorant and racist comments from the 2016 Colin Kaepernick rundown, I, like a lot of my colleagues, was mad and embarrassed,’’ wrote the PFT character about the videos, which included shameful behavior from Barstool hosts Dan Katz and Kevin Clancy. “To put it bluntly, it’s especially f——- -up that our black coworkers have been unfairly put in the position of choosing to either a) accept racist remarks, or b) publicly fighting with their boss.’’

This followed a podcast by some of those minority employees — led by former NFL lineman Willie Colon, host of Barstool’s 2Biggs podcast — who lashed out at Portnoy. They titled the podcast N.I.G.G.E.R., short for “Now It’s Gonna Get Extremely Real.’’ Said Colon: “I said to Dave, for the people who work here and work for you, we’re kind of offended by it, so when you throw your middle fingers up at the cancel culture, you’re really throwing your middle fingers up at us. And he was like, `I hear you, but I have a bigger following than you, I write your checks, and the people who support me and Barstool help me write your checks, so f—— eat a dick.’ ‘’

https://twitter.com/2BiggsPod/status/1278460574440009728?s=20

For a nanosecond, I thought they might be duping us in a scam for more Barstool attention. But I don’t think so. Publicly, company executive Erika Nardini refuses to condemn Portnoy, her bread and butter, tweeting this week, “Change doesn’t come from cancellation, and it will never come from everyone having f—— consensus all the time. It comes from difficult times and strong people who see new opportunities and take risks.’’ But privately, if she’s smart, she will feel the tempest in her house and find a bulldozer to remove the toxic waste. When the subject is race, amid this country’s most heated year of racial tension in decades, no one is play-acting. This is all very real and all very dangerous.

“I don’t know exactly how to fix this short of making Willie Dave’s boss,’’ wrote the PFT guy, “but I do know that what’s happened over the last four days is not going to work in the long term.’’

NASCAR isn’t commenting. Nor is Penn National — my two email inquiries went unanswered. So, their silence will be interpreted as a tacit acceptance of All Things Portnoy, which means those companies aren’t as committed to stamping out racism as they claim, such as Penn National’s stated vow to “stand united against hate, racism, violence and intolerance of any sort and salute all the peaceful warriors and protesters on the front lines of social injustice making their voice heard.’’ Where the company erred was allowing Portnoy to have all editorial control over content, thus nullifying supposed “guardrails’’ prohibiting “language that encourages underage gambling, illegal bets, or comments that might be deemed as harassment or discrimination of women or minorities, for example.”

They sold out to a madman, a compromise that should be known by people of all races when they visit Penn National’s 41 gaming and racing properties in 19 states and live betting properties in six states — Barstool Sports book app included. One reason for the sellout: Portnoy has had such a hypnotic hold on his “Stoolies’’ sheep — even as a pandemic day trader — that Penn National stock jumped 15 percent after he dropped the name on CNBC’s “Mad Money’’ last month. Never mind the workforce that Penn National could have salvaged without the Barstool investment; after furloughing 26,000 employees in April, the company filed notice it will lay off 233 people next month at its corporate offices. The executives sure love that stock bump … but for how much longer?

Penn National Gaming on Twitter: "Today we rang the bell. #NASDAQ… "

Who does Portnoy think he is, Warren Buffett?

“I’m better than he is. That’s a fact,’’ he said, even after being banned from E*Trade for a curious June 10 transaction.

I wonder what those aforementioned “peaceful warriors’’ would do to Portnoy if he stepped into a Black Lives Matter protest. By comparison, the killer shark might look tame. When activist/commentator Jemele Hill drew attention to his past videos, he mocked “cancel culture’’ and tried to justify his incendiary words by blaming societal shifts. “I’ve been doing this for two decades. I’ve made fun of every group of people, every race, every creed, every culture — you name it, we’ve made jokes about it,” he said in a video. “So if the No Fun Club, if the cancel culture wants to go back blog by blog, video by video, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, decade by decade and comb through everything we’ve ever f—in’ said and done, yeah, you’re gonna find a few jokes that missed the mark, that things if they are said today, you’d be like, `How’d they f—in’ say this? What are they, idiots?’ But times change, sensitivities change, cultures change. When you’ve been doing it as long as we have, things f—in’ change!”

That much is true. Societies do evolve for the better, the wiser and the fairer, leaving behind the cavemen. I just wonder, in a 2020 media context, why anyone interested in sports, regardless of demographic, would listen to this trash and not opt for a cooler, more enlightened host such as Jalen Rose or Colin Cowherd. Or even Pat McAfee, who has Barstool tendencies but was wise to cut the cord for more mainstream media pursuits.

Barstool Sports Founder Takes Over "Call Her Daddy" Instagram Amid ...

Portnoy tends to retaliate via targeted harassment, meaning my social media sites might be bombarded by the same cretin followers who pelt other critics. But maybe not. If Stoolies must decide between Barstool and Portnoy in a coup situation, I think Van Halen wins. David Lee Roth always can be replaced by a tamer Sammy Hagar.

Besides, I am not the story. The story is why companies in position to cancel Portnoy prefer to keep feeding the monster. “Whenever you try to cancel us, and do these movements that pop up once every couple years, it only makes us stronger,” he said. “Normal people only want an escape for a couple f—king seconds from this f—ked-up world, and that’s all we’re trying to do. And it just makes them like us more. … Keep trying to cancel us. We’ll just keep growing stronger. And when you’re miserable and dead and f—king off doing your own thing, in the next decade, we’ll still be here, doing us, and you’ll still be losing sleep about it. That’s just how it goes. You see this mug? Ain’t going anywhere.”

The killer shark is thinking otherwise. So is Willie Colon.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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