The banners line the walls of thousands of schools across the country, as well as countless basements, apartments, and even some flags. “SATURDAYS ARE FOR THE BOYS,” reads the script, in red, white, and blue. Emblazoned on each side of the white stripe, a red stool surrounded in stars, the logo for Barstool Sports.
Barstool Sports, self described as “by the common man, for the common man,” is a sports and men’s lifestyle blog with a strong social media presence. It boasts over three million followers on Instagram, 975k followers on Twitter, and another 714k on its “Barstool Smokeshows” account. Content on these platforms varies from a comedy-focused sports talk show known as “Pardon My Take,” to videos of athletes saying ridiculous things, to videos of frat boys and sorority girls pulling off remarkable stunts while drunk. In addition to its massive national following, the organization partnered with ESPN to produce a talk show, which was cancelled after the first episode when critics pointed out Barstool’s association with offensive language and content. Despite this, site founder, Dave Portnoy, claimed in a recent New York Times profile that ESPN’s business is in trouble, and Barstool style platforms represent the sports-reporting style of the future. So who’s right? Should my fellow sports fans and I accept Barstool as the newest rising sports commentators, or fall back on ESPN, the “worldwide leader in sports.”
While Barstool undoubtedly provides some funny sports commentary, this insight is overshadowed by its firm endorsement of frat culture, including the perpetuation of rape culture and excessive drinking. There are almost too many examples of this to fit into a single article. Let’s start with the aforementioned “Barstool Smokeshows.” This account, which can be found on Instagram, features college girls in underwear via their own submission. Each post is accompanied with questionable comments from some of the accounts near one million followers. In addition to these photos, Barstool facilitates affiliate accounts for state schools across the United States, including Barstool University of Miami, University of Michigan, Florida State, and countless others. Content on these accounts usually chronicles frat parties, with videos ridiculing women drinking, white men with racially offensive Halloween costumes, a segment called “guess that ass” to a quick feature of some frat guys referring to the recent suspension of FSU frats after a student death as “we’re not suspended, you’re suspended.” Barstool employees claim to be staying true to their loyal fan base by keeping with their penchant for sexist, fratty content. This belief might imply the employees don’t believe in the misogynistic frat culture promoted by the group, only its promotion for business purposes. However, actions by their founder prove otherwise.
Let’s review some gems from the site’s founder, Dave Portnoy, or as his fans call him, el presidente. After starting a nationwide tour that Barstool dubbed “Blackout Parties”, which unsurprisingly promotes drinking to the point of blacking out, “el pres” hit us with a real piece of class commentary.
“Just to make friends with the feminists I’d like to reiterate that we don’t condone rape of any kind at our Blackout Parties in mid-January,” he said. “However if a chick passes out, that’s a grey area.”
As disgusting as his “joke” was, it pales in comparison to some other comments he made in regards to women. He also hit us with this fantastic bit in 2010: “Even though I never condone rape, if you’re a size 6 and you’re wearing skinny jeans you kind of deserve to be raped right?”
And finally, as if there is any more need for proof: “College is too short to waste your time being a killjoy…. Loosen up and fuck a broad. You may enjoy it. That’s me being a role model.”
Portnoy claims he makes these comments as jokes, but joking or not, this attitude contributes to rape culture, aggressive masculinity, and fratty drinking habits on campus. In the past year, hazing incidents resulted in the deaths of Timothy Piazza of Penn State, Maxwell Gruver of Louisiana State University, Andrew Coffey of Florida State University, and Matthew Ellis of Texas State University. It’s fair to say cultural acceptance of dangerous drinking habits contributes to excessive amounts of alcohol forced onto fraternity pledges.
Although the issue is now being addressed on some campuses, rape culture still plagues college life. 23.1 percent of female students report experiencing sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. The issue isn’t going away. However, the rise of media organizations like Barstool threatens the progress made in this area.
Next time you hang that Saturdays Are For the Boys poster in your room, understand it is a tacit endorsement of the toxic culture promoted by a toxic brand.
Jack Leger is a member of the class of 2020. Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.