National Labor Board to Investigate Barstool Sports After Founder’s Anti-Union Threats
While Barstool Sports claims to be free of sexism and exist to be a place free of ‘PC culture,’ their actions over the years speak otherwise.
Earlier this week, Dave Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports, a controversial sports media outlet, went on an anti-labor Twitter rant regarding unionization. While Portnoy seemed brash and confident his rant would result in no harm to himself or Barstool Sports a complaint has just recently been lodged with the National Labor Relations Board, which will now investigate the company.
The Twitter Rant
Variety.com detailed what led up to Portnoy’s illegal musings:
“On Monday, he (Portnoy) tweeted that he had heard employees of Bill Simmons’ The Ringer wanted to unionize, and included a link to his four-year-old rant on Barstool in the wake of Gawker writers unionizing about how he hoped his company’s employees would follow suit ‘just so I can smash their little union to smithereens.’”
After a response by a Live Science staff writer, Portnoy replied with a controversial statement which has drawn the ire of labor lawyers across the United States.
This most recent controversy is just one of many surrounding the culture of Barstool Sports.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Responds to Portnoy
First-term Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) took exception to Portnoy’s comments and responded on Twitter.
Portnoy’s responded without much concern toward the congresswoman and the idea that he could be sued for his threats to fire any employee that attempts to unionize. However, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) says the following about the right to unionize within the United States:
“You have the right to form, join or assist a union.
“You have the right to organize a union to negotiate with your employer over your terms and conditions of employment. This includes your right to distribute union literature, wear union buttons t-shirts, or other insignia (except in unusual “special circumstances”), solicit coworkers to sign union authorization cards, and discuss the union with coworkers. Supervisors and managers cannot spy on you (or make it appear that they are doing so), coercively question you, threaten you or bribe you regarding your union activity or the union activities of your co-workers. You can’t be fired, disciplined, demoted, or penalized in any way for engaging in these activities.
“Working time is for work, so your employer may maintain and enforce non-discriminatory rules limiting solicitation and distribution, except that your employer cannot prohibit you from talking about or soliciting for a union during non-work time, such as before or after work or during break times; or from distributing union literature during non-work time, in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms. Also, restrictions on your efforts to communicate with co-workers cannot be discriminatory. For example, your employer cannot prohibit you from talking about the union during working time if it permits you to talk about other non-work-related matters during working time.”
The New York State Department of Labor also responded harshly to Portnoy’s threat.
Barstool’s History of Sexism
While Portnoy and Barstool Sports claim to be free of sexism and exist to be a place free of “PC culture,” their actions over the years speak otherwise. In 2017, Think Progress published an article highlighting the outlets’ comments regarding ESPN Host and former reporter Sam Ponder immediately after Barstool Sports had their partnership with ESPN canceled.
“Portnoy said plenty of objectionable things in his press conference on Monday afternoon — for one, I’m pretty sure that calling a female reporter a ‘fucking slut’ whose only job is to ‘make men hard’ was just as offensive in 2014 as it is in 2017 — but it’s hard to argue with his main thesis. Barstool has never hidden what it is, and the people behind the site have never apologized for it, either,” said the Think Progress piece.
“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? I mean skinny jeans don’t look good on size 0 and 2 chicks, nevermind size 6′s,” Portnoy wrote in a now-deleted blog in 2010, also highlighted by Think Progress.
“…he [Portnoy] also told another 20-year-old employee her looks would deteriorate in five years, such that she wouldn’t be worth putting in front of the camera (the employee fled the radio segment in tears); Portnoy wondered on-air if Harvey Weinstein should be able to offer roles in movies in exchange for consensual sex, and he wrote blog posts mocking the appearance of Deadspin’s editor in chief and the editorial director of Gizmodo Media Group, both of whom are women,” reported The Daily Beast.
While Portnoy and Barstool Sports’ comments are highly controversial they are, in fact, very “on brand.” Barstool Sports has built itself as a highly polarizing, defiant and provocative brand that has built a loyal customer base. Its tendency to offend and its rambunctious antics are what has attracted many of its customers. But has Barstool Sports gone too far?
While it is yet to be seen if Portnoy or Barstool Sports will suffer any long-term damage for his history of controversial and oftentimes misogynistic takes for his unionization threats, a lawsuit has already been filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
According toThe Hollywood Reporter, a group calling itself the Committee to Preserve the Religious Right to Organize has filed charging papers at the NLRB against Barstool Sports, which is majority-owned by The Chernin Group.
A copy of the charge, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, states, “Within the last six months, Barstool Sports, affiliated with the Chernin Group, through its crazed president, Dave Portnoy, has threatened to discipline employees on account o[f] Union and/or protected activity. The Charging Party seeks as relief that Mr. Portnoy be required to tweet and otherwise publicize his severe and sincere apology and to post the appropriate Notice on the public website. He should be required to read the Notice to all employees and make a public announcement about the Notice on his media locations of any nature.”
The NLRB has reportedly acknowledged the filing and sent a letter to Barstool Sports, after which NLRB agents will investigate and gather evidence from all involved parties.
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