ESPN’s Barstool Sports debacle is the sports network’s reckoning – Salon

Ponder’s gripe with Barstool Sports ultimately prevailed. On Monday, ESPN abruptly canceled the 10-day-old partnership with Barstool Sports. Skipper belatedly realized his network could not separate itself from Barstool’s controversial reputation.

“Effective immediately, I am canceling Barstool Van Talk,” Skipper said in a statement. “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.”

Beyond the “Pardon My Take” podcast, Barstool’s content is a jumbled mix of college humor, female objectification and sports talk. The website, for example, curates an Instagram account called Barstool Smokeshows, a collage of white girls rocking bikinis and sports jerseys.

Although ESPN desperately wants to court the highly-desirable 18-34 demographic, it’s hard to imagine this kind of baggage was worth it, especially given the timing of the partnership. With Hollywood and cable news facing a flurry of sexual assault and harassment allegations, ESPN decided to wed the most crude brand in the sports world.

To make matters worse for ESPN, a young yet well-financed startup called The Athletic has just poached another respected sports journalist from traditional media. Former Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski announced this week that he would be joining The Athletic, a new sports website whose sole business plan is to pillage talent from newspapers and then charge a subscription fee to its readers.

“We will wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing,” Alex Mather, a co-founder of The Athletic, told The New York Times in an interview that came out this week. “We will suck them dry of their best talent at every moment. We will make business extremely difficult for them.”


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