BOSTON – Barstool Sports is an online sports and culture blog that was founded by David Portony in Massachusetts and came to the Internet in 2007. Currently located out of New York City, it is a website that has been no stranger to controversies over the years. As one of the more detestable Boston-based blogs, Barstool Sports has engaged in sexualization of children, rape culture, and out-and-out plagiarism. Yet, it remains popular. One of the most recent brouhahas, reported by Variety, that Barstool has found itself in is yet another example of how the blog can be detrimental to itself and to the community.
Earlier this week, the Bill Simmons-founded website and podcast network, The Ringer, made waves when it was announced that many of the writers had unionized and were seeking benefits like parental leave, 401ks, fair overtime pay, and more. The decision at The Ringer resulted in Portnoy resurfacing comments he made years ago about unionizing. He wrote that he wanted Barstool to unionize so he could then destroy that union.
In response, many heads were turned towards Barstool, including that of Rafi Letzter, who is represented by the Writers Guild. In a tweet, Letzter wrote, “If you work for Barstool and want to have a private chat about the unionization process, how little power your boss has to stop you, and how you can leverage that power to make your life better: my DMs are open."
In response to this, Portnoy became extremely upset on Twitter and showed that he definitely is afraid of unions by threatening to fire anyone who contacted Letzter or who contacted any lawyer that specialized in employee unionization. In response, the AFL-CIO, a national federation of unions, pointed out that Portnoy was in violation of the National Labor Relations Act and what he had threatened was actually illegal. Portnoy's rage also drew the attention of New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who tweeted the following.
Obviously, it seems like Barstool Sports somehow manages to skate by every controversy that comes their way, but Portnoy would be hard-pressed to fight back against his employees if they were to go in on a union together. Of course, the only word has come from Portnoy so far, but it will definitely be interesting to hear if Barstool employees do end up unionizing.
Image Credit: The Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives in the ILR School at Cornell University