The new "Barstool Van Talk" debuted early this morning on ESPN2, and Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini yesterday defended the company after ESPN's Sam Ponder "called out the site for offensive comments it made about her and her infant daughter" in '14, according to Andrew Joseph of USA TODAY. Nardini tweeted, "There are certain vulnerabilities that come with growing up on the internet. If you want controversies, we have them. ... Barstool grew an undeniable audience because it was unafraid to have a hot take, an unpopular opinion or to cross the line. And it's because of this, not in spite of it, that we were able to create a show like Barstool Van Talk. And put @BarstoolBigCat and @PFTCommenter two of our most talented on ESPN. We can play ball by other people's rules and still be funny. The show will speak for itself." ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Scheduling Burke Magnus in a statement yesterday said the comments about Ponder were "offensive and inappropriate, and we understand her reaction." Magnus: "She is a valued colleague and doing a great job for us. As stated previously, we do not control the content of Barstool Sports. We are doing a show with Big Cat and PFT, and we do have final say on the content of that show." Ponder added that she "chose to speak out against Barstool because ESPN had officially partnered with them" (USATODAY.com, 10/17).
SO MANY QUESTIONS: In Minneapolis, Michael Rand asks, "Is ESPN saying they’re OK partnering with a site that has gone way overboard with an attack on one of its employees as long as they don’t do it on this ESPN show?" It "sure sounds like it." Rand: "How is anyone supposed to take that seriously -- and how is any female employee at ESPN, Ponder or otherwise, supposed to feel about all of this?" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/18). SI.com's Jimmy Traina wrote it is "curious that ESPN fully supported Ponder's actions, while suspending Jemele Hill for two weeks after she tweeted that people should boycott Jerry Jones's sponsors." Traina: "If you're doing a show with Big Cat and she went after him, wouldn't that be colleague-on-colleague crime? Wouldn't that violate some sort of social media policy? Wouldn't that at least warrant some sort of warning? Why is Ponder's reaction to what Barstool said understandable, but Hill's feelings about Jerry Jones' actions and statements not understandable?" (SI.com, 10/17).