NASCAR may have taken two steps forward and three steps back at Daytona

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 17: A race fan sips a beer as he watches the race from a hammock on the infield at the Daytona 500 Watch Party at Texas Motor Speedway on February 17, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

I nearly ran over a fan this past weekend in the infield at Daytona International Speedway. I was leaving the infield and a fan shot across the road in a motorized recliner.  The fans inventiveness is always a marvel, and someone had taken a run of the mill recliner and attached it to the top of a motorized scooter, obviously under the influence of their favorite form of alcoholic beverage. Cute, I thought. Fortunate for me I was crawling along at the posted 15 mph and was able to stop before I knocked the poor guy off his perch.  He ignored me instead charging towards a bar other fans had set up in the infield.

It turns out the recliner guy wasn’t just a fan. I was told later that he may have been a “Stoolie”, someone associated with the website “Barstool Sports”. For the unaware the Barstool Sports site looks like something designed and run by a group of drunken frat boys in the mid-1980s.  Or if you fast forward to modern times a site run by the trolls you normally read in the comment sections of other web sites. Trolls who enjoy bullying, and ogling women.

What Barstool Sports is, is a site where journalists seem to take a backseat to the self-professed “sports/smut” written by “Stoolies”, which are of course predominantly male.

Most of the stories are opinion pieces on various sports and some pop culture with titles like “I need both Liam And Noel Gallagher To Stop Being Such Twats” with a few news items sprinkled in like “Ranking The Names Of The 9 Arrested LSU Frat Bros In Terms OF Fratiness.”

Being male oriented the site has plenty of women-oriented pieces with such stories as “Grayson Allen Was Back At Duke, But His Smokeshow Girlfriend Morgan Reid Stole The Show”.  They even have a Chicks at Barstool section featuring stories like “I Agreed To Coffee With Sex Dungeon Guy As Long As The Boys Go Too” and “Miley Cyrus Wants You To Pleasure Yourself On This Lovely Valentine’s Day.”  In the past they have run recurring blogs such as “Guess That Ass” and “Guess That Rack.”

No matter what you might think about this sort of thing, this is America Free Speech for All, and the Barstool Sports empire is huge, and worth an estimated $100 million.

And it seems NASCAR wants in on that.

Barstool Sports was invited to this past weekends Daytona 500. Normally getting a media outlet with so many followers would be quite the score, pun intended.  It could however end up being a missed field goal.

The guy who started Barstool Sports is Dave Portnoy a 41-year old who founded the site in the early 2000s. It started out as a free newspaper in the Boston area before coming online.

It was bought in 2016 and Portnoy still runs the site and has creative control.  He is worshipped by his “stoolies’ who seem ready to defend him no matter what. For some time now women have accused the company and Portnoy of creating a culture that attacks women, especially those who dare to question them. He has allegedly had his Stoolies take to social media to attack the sites critics, especially women.

In September of last year, The Daily Beast reported that Sam Ponder, the female host of ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown tweeted out screenshots of a blog post on Barstool from 2014 in which Portnoy called her a “BIBLE THUMPING FREAK” whose primary job requirement was to “make men hard.” This news came shortly after ESPN had debuted Barstool Van Talk. The show was cancelled after one episode and that came after complaints from ESPN employees according to Sports Illustrated.  Ponder then made a new allegation that she had evidence of a video in which Portnoy said her daughter had been aborted. Portnoy denied he ever said such a thing.

Instead of allowing the furor to die down, Portnoy and Barstool launched an online war directed towards Sam Ponder.  He called her a “liar”, “insane”, and a “scumbag” in a blog post, continued the assault on social media and even printed up shirts with Ponder’s likeness with a red clown nose.

Not satisfied Portnoy then went after the Daily Beast reporter, Laura Wagner, who had written the story.  At one point saying he “want[s] to stick my tongue down [Wagner’s] throat.”

While the site now belongs to a media company, is run by a woman, and seems to have a forward corporate friendly face, a little digging can show that what it is may not be something that NASCAR wants.  Especially for a sport trying to be more relevant to the masses in a #MeToo era where the objectification of women is frowned upon.

If they’ve indeed changed to be more corporate friendly while still maintaining an edge like Portnoy seemed to indicate to Forbes in 2017, then great.  But before NASCAR jumps in bed with Barstool, they may just want to pull the covers back and check to see what’s really under that bed.



Greg Engle