It’s 2018 and Barstool Sports is still a thing. How the heck is that possible?
For at least three years, I haven’t met anyone serious about sports — read: not a guy who plays fantasy and thinks that means he could be a sports reporter — who actually enjoyed Barstool Sports. Some people can appreciate the publication’s success in an ever-changing sports media market, and there’s some quality in its pizza review blog.
But this week, Barstool went too far. It seems silly to say that, given the wide amount of misogyny the site has spouted in the past. However, the publication truly hit a low this week when it posted a series of fabricated quotes by WNBA players.
I’ve written this column before, basically, espousing about the various reasons why Barstool should be left in the past. Barstool has long been a thorn in the side of the sports community, the typical kind of riff raff that turns off normal people from becoming a fan.
Whether it’s sexist Instagram posts (let’s never forget the infamous pumpkin post of last year) or unfunny podcasts that lean too heavily on dude-bro humor, Barstool clings to the hyper-masculine environment that sports are stereotypically known for.
Barstool has pretty much always taken an unofficial stance against women in sports. Yet this bigotry never been quite as deliberate or explicit as it quickly became this week.
Over the past three weeks, Barstool has posted a series of quotes from Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, Dallas Wings guard Skylar Diggins-Smith and Las Vegas Aces forward Tamera Young. Each of the quotes from the stars echoed common sentiments throughout the league surrounding the disparity of pay between female and male athletes. In these quotes, the players called out NBA athletes by name, criticizing them for lacking talent and making more than their female counterparts.
There were two problems with these quotes. The first is that they were used to defend Barstool’s widespread defense of the pay gap between male and female players. The second is that they were completely fabricated.
Each of the athletes immediately called out the falsities. At one point, Bobby Reagan — the writer of the blog that Griner’s fake quote was attached to — admitted on Twitter that he knew the quote was fake.
“Well aware,” he said in response to a tweet calling out the fake quote. “Not the point of the blog, which addresses [sic] all the issues.”
Reagan goes on to point out that his blog post was meant to defend women’s equality and the team’s fight for increased salaries and benefits in the WNBA. Yet the website still hasn’t taken down its fake quotes, nor has it apologized for libeling several athletes with complete apparent lack of regard for the truth.
What worries me most about this isn’t the website’s continued belligerence toward women in sports, nor is it the increasing popularity that this attitude creates. (Believe me though, those things worry me plenty.) What I find most disturbing about Barstool is the clear lack of emphasis on reporting the truth.
Barstool Sports began as a blog, but it’s become a source for reporting — or at least perceived reporting — for many sports fans. Yet, despite this shift in readership, the publication remains a blog focused less on reporting facts and more on creating entertainment for fans. If this means making up quotes, well, all the better.
I understand why this formula continues to work. Scandalous, controversial — and fake — quotes garner retweets and mentions on Twitter, which result in rampant increases in clicks, even if they’re coming from angry misogynists who want nothing more than to yell about the ignorance of female athletes.
But as Barstool continues to miraculously rise in popularity and prevalence, it needs to accept its new place in the world of sports media. It can remain a blog for dude-bros to argue about whether Jordan or LeBron would win in a one-on-one, and it can continue its proud tradition of weird nicknames and Saturdays being for the boys.
What Barstool can’t afford, however, is to continue spreading untruths and downright lies just to scrape up a few more clicks. Like it or not, this website has become a source for news and information in sports media. And with the current climate surrounding every type of media outlet, it will do well to avoid adding fuel to the fire of the rapidly rising fear of fake news.
Julia Poe is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column, “Poe’s Perspective,” runs Tuesdays.