May 24, 2021

The Barstool Case Study

The Barstool Case Study

What might Barstool Sports—a company thoroughly emblematic of the feverish nature of our modern, digital world—teach us about ethics?

What might Barstool Sports—a company thoroughly emblematic of the feverish nature of our modern, digital world—teach us about ethics? More than you might expect.


Here’s what you can expect in this episode of Thinking Is Cool:

  • A nuanced conversation about ethics, morals, and the ways late-stage capitalism has encouraged us to apply them to corporate entities
  • Lots of dunking on Barstool’s idiot in chief Dave some shoutouts to the people working at Barstool who are actually not dumb or bad or dangerous
  • Commentary on the inherent privilege of casting moral judgement against a potential employer
  • A look at what really goes down in my DMs


There’s a lot to unpack with this one, and I don’t think the conversation around good vs. bad, ethical vs. unethical, or moral vs. immoral will ever really be over. So do me a favor. Go have a conversation with someone about Barstool and the role of ethics in the corporate world. You won’t regret it.


This week’s guests are some of my most trusted friends, Twitter mutuals, and highly intelligent peers. 

  • Dan Attia. Dan is the head of research for noted internet guy Scott Galloway. If you’ve ever heard Scott speak, you’ve likely heard at least a few thoughts and ideas that started in Dan’s mind.
  • Josh Ogundu. Josh works in product at TikTok and has some of the best insights on modern work I’ve ever seen on Twitter.
  • Alayna Treene. Alayna is a Congressional reporter for Axios and co-author of the Axios Sneak Peek newsletter. We also interned together at Bloomberg in the summer of 2016.


Season 1 of Thinking Is Cool is brought to you by HMBradley, our exclusive launch sponsor. Deposit accounts are provided by Hatch Bank, Member FDIC. Credit cards are issued by Hatch Bank under a license with MasterCard. This is a paid endorsement.


Follow me on Twitter. Sign up for my newsletter.


*Roll pull quote*


*Roll intro music*


Hey there, howdy, how ya doing everyone? I’m your host, Kinsey Grant, and I am so thrilled to welcome you back to Thinking Is Cool for our second episode together. Just like the first one, this episode is made possible by our friends at HMBradley—more on them soon.


Last episode, I spent the entire time talking about sex.


Tough first act to follow, but I think I nailed it because today...we’re talking about something equally as difficult to admit you actually think about all the time: Barstool Sports. Explanation incoming, but before we get there:


Nothing is off limits. Everything is on the table. Take it anywhere...and remember, thinking is cool. And so are you.


*Fade out intro music*


We’re talking about Barstool today. But this isn’t a teardown. It’s not an episode about the media industry. It’s not about pizza reviews or sports betting either. It’s a little about Barstool, but it’s a lot about something bigger...This is a case study in corporate morality.


Let me explain: In this episode, Barstool is the symbol for temptation. My own temptation, but I imagine yours some too. Sometimes, an offer or even the thought of an offer is too good to pass up. I think Barstool founder Dave Portnoy has failed to recognize the responsibility that comes with his platform and is probably a sexist and is definitely not the best manager. But I’ve been tempted by what his juggernaut media company brings to the table.


Today, I’m using Barstool as an allegory for the risks of recklessness and the ways those risks are mitigated by growth potential and the occasional and scalable good deed. This will be a conversation about culture, motivations, and, of course, smokeshows of the day.


And it’s personal. The question at the root of this Barstool case study is this: Would or could I, Kinsey Grant, work for Barstool, all things considered? Would you? Could you? Work for a company that went against some of your most closely held beliefs? Whether it’s Barstool or Palantir or MSNBC. I’ve thought a lot about it, and I’ll tell you where I landed shortly.


So that’s what we’re thinking about today: How we’ve reached the point at which companies in addition to people bear morality and the designation of “good” or “bad,” often with little grey area in between the two. 


Before I dive in, an important side note: Even if you hate Barstool, you’ve never heard of it, or you’re already foaming at the mouth with anger hearing me allude to your messiah Dave as a misogynist...this episode will force you to think outside the typical bounds of what makes a job good and what makes it bad.


Because nothing is black and white, especially when we talk about morals and ethics.


Here goes nothing, and RIP to my DMs...


*Roll transition music*


Let’s start with a story. Like any good story, this one begins with a Twitter DM.


On August 25, 2020, at 3:17pm I fired off this DM on Twitter: “hey Erika—I have a few quick questions (we can keep it under 10 mins) I'd love to ask you at some point. not on the record...just some general career q's I've been grappling with lately. let me know if you have time to chat briefly. Thanks!”


Checking my calendar real fast. August 25, 2020...right, I was in the early days of a career crisis, facing for the first time what would soon become irreconcilable differences with my former employer, Morning Brew. I was lacking direction, and I was confused about the future. So I did what I do best...DM’d a bunch of successful people in the hopes one of them would offer me either advice or a new gig.


I sent that DM to Erika Nardini, Barstool’s CEO of about 5 years. She never responded, which is completely understandable. In my mind, though, I was trying to get in the good graces of someone I thought held the keys to success in the media world, my media world.


I should say early on, neither Barstool nor Erika ever even entertained the idea of asking me to work there. No conversations were had...but I sent the thirsty DMs to the CEO of the company. I toyed with the idea of pitching myself as a deeply sexualized business news hot girl. I read about how much money Alex Cooper from Call Her Daddy was making and I wanted to make that kind of money too.


I was tempted. 


A few months after that August DM, I resigned from Morning Brew with plans to build my own media company. And I’m glad I did—it’s turned pretty great so far. But there were several weeks last fall that I spent inconspicuously shopping myself around. I had what felt like about 4,367 intro calls. I pictured countless versions of what my future might look like.


But I couldn’t shake the idea of Barstool. I mean, who gives a fuck about NBC or Bloomberg when Barstool is out there, right? I couldn’t get past how severely this company was living in my head rent-free. At the same time...I remembered the scores of angry Slacks I’d exchanged with my Morning Brew work best friend, Jenny, about the ways Barstool was disparaging to women.


And yet...I was horny for the acclaim. For the followers. For the status. I thought to myself “holy shit...imagine what the cool guys who never paid attention to you in college would think about you being Barstool’s business chick.”


As a feminist and someone who hates being wrong, I was ashamed that the thoughts crossed my mind, but they did, and they did often.


Why was I feeling such guilt and shame, though? Barstool is a flashy company that’s cemented itself as a leading podcast incubator and producer, it’s led by a woman, and it’s profitable. These were all the very things for which I was searching as I left my last job.


So how come I felt like shit for wanting to be the Alex Cooper of business news? 


It’s because I had categorized Barstool as a “bad” company, consciously or not. For the record, it wouldn’t be hard to do that consciously. 


I staunchly disagree with a lot of what Barstool does, which has for years been profiting from sexist, racist, or deeply half-baked takes under the guise of humor:

[clips embedded in the episode]

That’s...a troubling collection of content. But do those transgressions and that poor judgment erase everything else Barstool offers as a force in media actively transforming raw podcasting talent into marketable personalities?


Therein lies my reckoning at the intersection of professional realism and morality. I pretty well understood the former—I know why I want to make money and achieve success and have fun doing it, but what about the latter? Where does morality fit in the job search, beyond just Barstool, a company as commendable as it is condemnable?


To start finding out, we’re taking a page from our miserable friends in business school. Time for a case study. Class is in session. 


*Roll transition music*


Lesson 1: The brief history of Barstool


Well, as brief as possible.


Barstool is a media company that found its footing online with raunchy coverage of sports and hot girls mostly geared toward men. It still covers those things, but now it hires women, too. Sorry, “chicks,” as Barstool refers to them.


The company was founded in 2003 as a free Boston newspaper by Dave Portnoy, noted freewheeler and legendary wildcard. Here’s one of the eloquent ways Portnoy has described Barstool, this time in 2011 to

  • DAVE VOICE: “There’s so much PC police. There’s so much, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that.’ We’re the exact opposite. ... It’s TMZ almost for guys.”


Did I sound like Dave? I was trying to. His voice, both literally and figuratively, is something that’s hard to replicate. As the founder of the company, or El Pres, as his followers like to call him, Dave has shaped an editorial voice that found its niche in catering primarily to young men, serving them with content that felt truly unique.


My first foray into Barstool was in 2014, which makes me admittedly late to the game. A girl in my sorority was named Barstool’s smokeshow of the day.


Being the smokeshow of the day essentially meant that my ~sister~ had her photo plastered on Barstool’s site for no reason other than...she was really, really hot. I tried to find her specific smokeshow article to no avail. But trust me, she was and still is very hot.


What I did find, though, is that Barstool is still doing smokeshows of the day. In fact, there’s now an entire Instagram page dedicated to finding and featuring smokeshows. How that has survived the great wokeness reckoning of the last several years is beyond me.


I pass no judgment, but let me say this...Cameron Winklevoss, Downtown Josh Brown, and the 11 of my male college friends following Barstool smokeshows on Insta...I see you :)


That’s kind of what makes Barstool work—it appeals to both billionaires I’ve interviewed and the banking bros I’ve known since they were 18. Just about everyone knows the brand in some regard, and that’s in no small part because Barstool’s content can be really funny. I can cringe at a poorly Facetuned smokeshow of the day, and in the next scroll or next breath, laugh at a Barstool meme making fun of Tom Brady kissing his kids. Everyone can.


I follow 1,002 accounts on Instagram. 324 of those accounts follow Barstool—or over 30%. 


That ubiquity earned Barstool the kind of acclaim most media companies could only dream of. In 2016, Barstool got a major investment from the Chernin Group. Dave handed over a majority stake, but he kept his editorial control. Also a fuck ton of money.


And that was just the beginning. Last year, Penn National Gaming bought a huge stake in Barstool that valued the company at $450 million. This was a landmark kind of a deal for a lot of reasons:

  1. It signaled the beginning of what would soon become an influx of sports betting and media partnerships. My Thinking Is Cool cofounder Josh had a few thoughts on that model as the ops side of this business: ADD IN JOSH VOICE MEMO HERE
  2. $450 million was a monster valuation for a company that was in 2016 worth a reported $15 million max.
  3. It flew in the face of anyone saying that investing in Barstool, troubling content and risky leadership and all, was a bad business idea.


Which brings us to…


Lesson 2: Barstool as a deeply troubling company


*Roll transition music* 


I know a lot of you out there are huge Barstool fans...but you need to recognize that the company has some enormous red flags that deserve addressing.


First and foremost, Dave has exhibited sexist and racist behavior and he is the face of the company. I don’t care that he’s not the CEO, he’s the person we most closely associate with Barstool. The buck should stop with him, and yet it does not.


There are plenty of examples I could choose from of Dave doing something that’s incredibly stupid and misguided and uneducated. But these are the ones I’ve landed on:


Early in the Barstool story, Dave made what has now been labeled by him as a joke about women who wear size 6 skinny jeans. Women like me. He said they “kind of deserved to be raped.” 


I know that Barstool superfans like to say that quote is taken out of context, so let me provide the context for you—Dave was insinuating no women look good in skinny jeans, not even women who wear very small sizes. If you wear a size 6, though, you are deserving of a violent assault. Let me remind you—the average jeans size for American women is about a 16.


There was also the great Barstool Van Talk fiasco of 2017. Barstool was set to debut a new late night comedy show for ESPN called Barstool Van Talk. The show was canceled after one episode aired because ESPN’s Sam Ponder called out Dave and his cronies for using deplorable sexist language toward her. For example, Dave suggested a few years prior to the show that Ponder “sex it up and be slutty” on air. 


As a woman who has struggled with being in the spotlight and feeling the pressure, mostly from men, to do just that—sex it up and be slutty, I say this: You suck, Dave. Why don’t you go sex it up.


And I’ll choose just one more example of how big of a moron this man can be. Following former NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s groundbreaking decision to kneel during the national anthem, Dave and his colleagues had a field day. 


In a 2016 segment, Dave said, “So I’m going to say something that’s racist.” Here’s what that thing was: He thought Kaepernick was “an ISIS guy… Throw a head wrap on this guy, he’s a terrorist.” Dave said Kaepernick, who was born in Wisconsin to a white mother and Black father, “looks like a Bin Laden,” going on to say, “that’s not racist.”


Hey Dave? Yes it is. Now, Dave has made a point to share pieces from Barstool that supported Kaepernick, which is all fine and good. But it doesn’t make his comments any less mindless.


Imagine how powerful it would have been had Dave recognized systemic racism then, before the 2020 reckoning after George Floyd’s murder. He has the power to impress countless young minds. He could use that platform for good, use it responsibly...and he doesn’t.


This highlights the biggest shortcoming of Barstool in my view and red flag No. 1: a complete lack of responsibility. Do you know how long it took me to Google Colin Kaepernick’s background? Approximately 20 seconds. That’s all it took to do my research. 


And it takes no time to not call someone a slut. In fact, you’ll save time and oxygen by keeping your mouth shut.


I’m sure many of the Barstool fans among you will point out that these examples are from years ago, which is fair. I do not believe that any of us should be judged on singular mistakes made in our past...but with Dave, it wasn’t a singular mistake. It’s a pattern of bad judgment, one that’s trickled down to content creators beyond just Dave himself.


I mentioned before that Dave got to keep editorial control over Barstool after the Chernin Group invested. And editorial control is exactly what it is—Barstool is an editorial entity, which means it bears responsibility in either telling the truth or making it more clear that satire is satire.


Barstool has tens of millions of followers. Dave interviewed then-President Trump a few months before the 2020 presidential election—he was given an opportunity most journalists dream of, and instead of asking hard-hitting questions, the interview turned into a thoughtless and thinly veiled campaign rally.


Dave and leaders like him have power. They ought to be held accountable. Anything else would be dangerous.


It comes down to responsibility and accountability, two things Dave has eluded masterfully. He’s created an internet persona that purposefully goes in the face of anyone deemed a hater. 


Whatever the Notes App apology is, Dave’s strategy is the opposite. He stands his ground.


For example, Dave once threatened to fire Barstool employees who engaged in union-organizing activities. When Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that that’s actually illegal...Dave didn’t back down and instead invited her to debate him. He only deleted tweets and anti-union content after a National Labor Relations Board investigation.


He can be so flagrant in his evasion of regular business norms and standards—so committed to the bit of standing his ground—because he’s armed with something most founders are angry mob of superfans called Stoolies. They would do anything to protect Dave and his reputation. Where I see irresponsibility, they see irreverent honesty. Where I see dangerous and spiteful comments, they see comedy.


To me, that’s a problem. Having fans is awesome. Being appreciated is awesome. But being given a free pass to do whatever to whomever for however long you want...not awesome.


That’s the biggest red flag, but for good measure let’s do a rapid assessment of the rest of them.


Red flag No. 2: As I said before, I’m a feminist. As I also said before, Barstool made a name for itself among young people like me by objectifying women as smokeshows. And I get it, I used to work for an outwardly very bro-y company and was, at my hiring, the only woman there for a brief time. But at least Morning Brew recognized that? Barstool has leaned into it. It’s become a selling point, and I’m not sure I’m totally on board with that.


Red flag No. 3: How am I supposed to continue my career as a journalist, a truth-seeker, when Barstool’s relationship with truth is so incredibly fraught?


In contributing to and in some cases engineering an environment that rewards virality more than it does truth-seeking, Barstool is an internet polluter, and it has blurred the lines that typically govern media, and govern it for good reason. It’s one thing to be a comedy site; it’s another to interview Donald Trump, and do what Dave did over the last year—create an entire culture around day trading stocks that has undoubtedly cost scores of young people money.


These examples would suggest that, yes, Barstool is categorically a bad company. But they don’t tell the entire story. To fully understand the implications of applying “ethics” to companies, we need to recognize that they, like people, contain multitudes.


With that, let’s move on to lesson 2: Barstool as the do-gooder. But first, let’s take a quick break to hear more about our friends at HMBradley.


*Roll ad*


We all want to achieve the perfect summer glow. But moisturizing, hydrating, and exfoliating all the time is hard! Wouldn’t it be great if you could do that in your sleep? With our exclusive launch sponsor HMBradley, you can literally work on your financial goals in your sleep.


That’s part of why HMBradley is my new favorite fintech platform. They offer deposit accounts and credit cards which provide the insights I need to get my money where I want it to be – this summer (and fall, and winter, and spring...).


HMBradley makes putting your money to work—hard work—a breeze. And from what I’ve learned using HMBradley lately, that’s because they make passive income so easy. Ask any rich people you know—passive income is the secret to building wealth. 


Unlike active income—aka the hard-earned money you make doing your job—passive income is money you make without really doing anything. It’s the cold hard cash you get from things like interest on savings...something that HMBradley has figured out.


With the passive income HMBradley is helping me build, I’m getting closer every day to meeting my financial goals. Some of those goals? Saving for a trip to Scotland with my sister, buying myself an emerald ring I’ve been eyeing since forever, and ensuring I can afford wedding presents for the million friends I have getting married this summer...just to name a few.


HMBradley makes it easy for everyone—you, me, my cofounder Josh—to manage spending and to set and achieve financial goals. And take it from me—meeting your goals feels really, really good.


Get a headstart on your money journey with HMBradley. If you use my exclusive link at to open a deposit account you will immediately get their highest Savings Tier as soon as you connect a direct deposit. That's 3.00% annual percentage yield on deposits up to one hundred thousand dollars, without doing anything – literally in your sleep. Go to to sign up now!


Banking services are provided by Hatch Bank, an FDIC member. Meaning your deposit account is insured up to $250,000 per depositor. Check the show notes for more information.


*Roll transition music*


Thanks, HMBrads. So before that kick-ass ad rolled, I told you we were going to talk about the other side of Barstool. The side that doesn’t suck so much. Time to think about...


Lesson 2: Barstool as a do-gooder


The obvious place to start when it comes to understanding the good Barstool is capable of is the Barstool Fund. It’s a monumental example of using your expansive platform for good.


Through the fund, Barstool has raised almost $40 million for businesses struggling to make it through the Covid-19 pandemic. 227,492 supporters have helped keep 341 businesses afloat, at my last check. That’s incredible, and it’s not nothing...especially given how many businesses, media or otherwise, were committed to lip service only over the last year.


Truth be told, the Barstool Fund isn’t the only way Barstool has given back—many of you reached out to let me know about what recently happened with Barstool’s Sam Bozoian, aka Riggs.


After the NCAA canceled the D1 women’s golf regional in Louisiana recently due to inclement weather...Barstool, namely Riggs, stepped in to organize a consolation tournament for the women and their teams.


Chants of “let the girls play” rang throughout Twitter the week Riggs pulled off the tournament. And I don’t want to discount how great that is—women in sports will always need advocates, and this is a great example of doing something good.


There are also some huge benefits to working at Barstool from a more personal Kinsey Grant perspective. Think about how far this podcast could go with that built-in cross-promotion…


Barstool appears to have at least 37 podcasts by my count. Some of those are now defunct, but they’re still on the Apple Podcast app. That’s a ton of shows. And a huge audience. ESPN could never.


Becoming a podcast powerhouse is a natural evolution for Barstool. The company has, rather geniusly, created a model for talent recognition, incubation, and distribution that everyone in the media world secretly or not so secretly wants to replicate. They pick talent out of obscurity *cough Twitter cough* and build them into personalities. The machine is well-oiled, and it’s made Barstool unsinkable in the audio world. 


There’s also the fact that Barstool has nailed community building. While the Stoolies can at times resemble an angry mob, they’re passionate. Seriously passionate, and seriously vast...I don’t know a single man in his 20s who hasn’t at least given Barstool podcasts a try. If you’ve ever heard the words “Saturdays are for the boys” or “gluck gluck 9,000” … you’ve experienced the Barstool community’s penchant for creating culture.


And finally, of course, the money. One of Barstool’s top performers, Call Her Daddy host Alex Cooper, appears to be raking in half a mil. That is...a lot more than I’ve ever made making podcasts for other people. From where I stand, it seems Barstool is at least a little committed to fairly compensating talent. Especially talent that has the top podcast for women in the world. And that’s cool.


As an aside, I also think it’s cool that Call Her Daddy has become more than a place for women to go to find out how to make men fall in love with them because of a blowjob technique. It’s evolved into a way to talk about sexuality, and mental health, and the unique challenges of being a woman today.


I don’t listen to Pardon My Take so I won’t pretend to understand the show’s evolution, but Josh tells me this: It’s very funny and the hosts are kinda the good guys of Barstool. Good for them.


*Roll transition music*


So...There we have it. Our case study company has its pros and has its cons. Do we get to classify Barstool as good or bad now? It’s complicated.


We tossed the question “Would you work for Barstool” in our Slack group, and 68% of people said no. But 27% of people said “maybe / I’ll reply with nuance.” Nuance is what matters here. Let’s talk about why.


My initial take is this: As work has come to represent an enormous if not all-encompassing part of who we are as people, we’ve begun to pass moral judgment on companies themselves. And fairly so, I think. Businesses are made up of people and their actions and decisions. There are people who make good decisions and people who make bad decisions.


In the case of my secret obsession with Barstool, it boiled down to a cost-benefit analysis. Was the benefit of tethering myself to a high-growth company with a heavy brand worth the cost of what, in my case, looked a lot like selling my soul? Here’s where Barstool becomes the emblem of temptation today.


How do we decide to work for companies we distrust, disagree with, or find morally compromising? I’m using Barstool as the sacrificial lamb, but you could really insert any company here: Exxon. Koch Industries. Banks that fund private prisons. Palantir. Fox News, Basecamp. The list goes on.


With that in mind, I called up some of my most trusted friends and Twitter mutuals to hear their perspectives. Some of these people know Barstool well. Some of them work in media. Some of them are just super smart and thoughtful.


I asked all of these people the very same question: Would you work for Barstool if given the opportunity? Here’s what they said.


Let’s start with Dan Attia. Dan is the head of research for noted internet guy Scott Galloway. If you’ve ever heard Scott speak, you’ve likely heard at least a few thoughts and ideas that started in Dan’s mind.


DAN: If there's a moral landscape in business barstools, not on it.

KINSEY: Why do you say that?

DAN: I mean, how many people can you lead? It's almost a cult leading to a mass suicide. How many people can you lead into gambling addictions masquerading as investing and then just continue to do that without regard for your audience? It's kind of I don't know, it's kind of delinquents, but I'm not for it.

KINSEY: So I gather you would not work for barstool if given the opportunity.

DAN: Me personally, absolutely not. I'd say, fuck no.


Digging a little deeper here with Dan, who brought up Dave Portnoy’s recent ambitions in the stock market...


DAN: They use the modern Agora, i.e. Twitter, to just engage in open pump and dumps that attract a lot of attention, scrutiny or whatever. But all they're optimizing for there is engagement and fame. And so that's if that's their agenda, that's I mean, is it any more dangerous than than coal mining? I don't know.


Tossing it now to Josh Ogundu, who works in product at TikTok and has some of the best insights on modern work I’ve ever seen on Twitter.


JOSH: I would say for me, if I was offered to work in basketball, I would I don't think I could, because I think in the short term it can be a win. So I do like to take stock videos that they make. But I think in the long term, depending on how the organization like the leadership or the organization outwardly faces to the world, it can damage the reputation that you have to get new opportunities after it.


I followed up with this question: Does working for a company that you don’t morally align with render you morally compromised?


Let’s start with Alayna Treene. Alayna is a Congressional reporter for Axios and co-author of the Axios Sneak Peek newsletter. We also interned together at Bloomberg in the summer of 2016.


ALAYNA: I think whenever you sign up to work at a place, you have to know, I mean, you know, we're going into it. If you worked up our schedule, you kind of know the kind of coverage you'll be creating if you worked, you know, for Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow, you know, on either side of the aisle, you kind of know what coverage you're signing up for.


Alayna explained that Barstool knows its niche and serves it well. If that’s not what you’re interested in...maybe go somewhere else. That’s on you.


ALAYNA: The example I'm thinking of is The New York Times. And how they handled this is a very new and maybe a lot of your listeners aren't like haven't really paid that much attention to. But when Tom Cotton wrote this article about everything going on with the protests, the Black Lives Matter protest and military intervention and some of these and a lot of New York Times reporters disagreed with allowing that article to run in The New York Times and kind of created this, you know, where you're seeing reporters within a company and people who have their own brand and are trusted on their own, separate from their company, clash with those that they're employed by.


Let’s hear again from Dan.


DAN: I went to work at Deutsche Bank and Goldman for for a little while, and it was because I didn't really have a choice, but I learned about what I didn't want to be in those environments. I looked around and I saw an absolute hierarchical structure where people were willing to do whatever it took to generate fees and then make money. And that's no different to BASTABLE. It's just a different a different means of production. So I think it can be really rewarding in surprising ways to be in bad workplaces or bad environments because like a diamond gets pressurized, like you can come out of that and just be a lot stronger and a lot clearer.


And here’s what Josh had to say.


JOSH: That's one thing I think people should do more is not assume that just because someone works at a company that they have decision making power or anything like that around what's happening in other parts of the business because they don't work in it. 


JOSH: I had a friend with the Facebook and they're like, wow, you're working at Facebook. I can't believe you're about to do that. You see what they did with the the elections. They like misinformation and things like that. And I was like, I'm not Mark Zuckerberg, I'm not him. I need a job. That's what I need to do.


And finally, I posed this question: Where does morality fit in the job hunt? Handing the mic to Dan.


DAN: I think that so long as you can communicate those concerns and maintain your own sort of your own integrity, then that's all that matters in my mind. Scott and I don't agree on a lot of things. But what we also try to do is say you have a different on this particular matter. Your your belief structure is different to mine. Here's where it's different is what we can agree to disagree and we move on. So there's some element of just creating or rehabilitating common ground in workplaces.


Now, to Josh.


JOSH: I don't think any of these companies are good and bad for profit entities. They're not people. They're just like they're here to make money. Some of the decisions you made agree with you think that's good. Some of the decisions you agree with, they might be bad. We had the end of the day. They're really just here to go make money and return money to shareholders.


I’m not so sure I agree with Josh’s last point, though it is well made and well taken.


To me...Companies can be cast as moral entities, and we’re all entitled to our own judgements. I think Barstool is bad, and you might reasonably think it’s good. Chaos and altruism can coexist, as they do within the walls of Barstool, but in some cases one overpowers the other.


But, in all honesty, the good or bad part isn’t what matters most. It’s the part where you or I get to decide. To pass judgement on a potential employer for reasons of morality is inherently privileged. Not everyone has the luxury of passing on a job because the founder’s comments don’t sit right with you and one time he was creepy to one of your friend’s friends (ahem talking about you at Common Ground in 2019 Dave). I had other options, which gave me the space and freedom to dig my heels into the ground and cast Barstool aside as a bad place to work. That’s not everyone’s reality.


Here’s Josh Ogundu again:


JOSH: I think it's a privilege to base your career decision on morality alone. So that's kind of the way I look at it, like you have to have your line in the sand on what you are not cool with or what you are cool with, but also externally to the greater population. It's a privilege to make career decisions on morality alone. 


My decision to go independent instead of pursuing a career with Barstool was one made leisurely. I didn’t have hungry mouths to feed. I didn’t have student loans. I didn’t have to worry about paying my rent.


I had the privilege of being judgmental. I can say the words “I’d rather die than work for the Koch brothers” because I have other ways of keeping myself alive. That...that’s privilege. 


Step 1 is recognizing it. Step 2 is thinking about what you can do to use it. I’m talking to anyone who’s listening to this episode on their new AirPods or ever considered buying Golden Goose sneakers.


*Roll transition music*


I think about Jane Fonda a lot. And not because of her powerhouse performance in the 2005 film Monster In Law. Because she’s a beacon of inspiration for anyone looking to use their privilege to accomplish change. She’s been arrested six times, from what I can tell, throughout a vivid history as an activist.


When you’re Jane Fonda or any other privileged person, you can risk a lot more. You can get arrested and not lose everything. I need to be more like Jane Fonda, which is why I’m making this episode.


I have the distinct privilege and luxury of working for myself. You might too. I can draw attention to the shortcomings and failures and consequential mistakes of companies like Barstool because I don’t need them to hire me.


So that’s what I’m doing. This is me calling out Barstool for setting a poor example for tooons of young people. And let me be incredibly clear—I DM’d Dave several times trying to get him on this episode to no avail. I made it from Erika Nardini’s DMs to her email, but she didn’t agree to an interview either. I would have loved to have this conversation face to face, but here we are. Doesn’t mean I can’t use my platform, right?


Here’s what I think: Leaders in positions of power like Dave Portnoy shouldn’t joke about rape, racism, or anything of the like. You have a responsibility, and all of your good deeds are for naught if you can’t rise to meet it.


I think you can, and I’ve been encouraged as a sideline observer of the ways Barstool has matured in recent years. So here’s to more growth, more accountability, and far fewer thirsty DMs from yours truly.


*Roll transition music*


I started this episode by asking you what you think about corporate ethics, using Barstool as an example. I think you know where I stand now—I’m not really interested in being the next Alex Cooper anymore.


I’m more interested in being me. In recognizing that I can watch her Instagram stories or laugh at a Barstool meme or make fun of Davey Day Trader and not lose sight of the fact that accountability matters. Barstool, like any company, or really any person, isn’t just good or just bad.


Apply that same logic to the rest of your life. It’s not just Dave Portnoy I’m analyzing here. When we recognize our privilege, we can recognize and speak to strengths and weaknesses everywhere. We can fight for more equitable workplaces. We can hold shitty people to account. We can build mission-driven companies. We can change things. 


Because there’s more to this world than just profits, views, and viral memes.


Ask yourself this: How and where do you draw the line? What if your boss contributes to the dissolution of the democratic process in the United States? What if your boss doesn’t believe in climate change? What if your boss is juuuust a little too weird about what your female colleagues wear in the office? What do you do? What do you think?


Sit back, mull it over, and go talk to a friend about it. Put your heads together and learn something new. Because thinking is cool, and so are you.


See you next time.