ESPN launched “Barstool Van Talk” on ESPN2 in the hopes of harnessing the growing popularity of its backer, the raunchy Barstool Sports site, for its wee-hours schedule. But just days after starting the program, ESPN is pulling it off the air.
The program, said ESPN President John Skipper, in a statement, is canceled “effective immediately.”
“While we had approval on the content of the show, I erred in assuming we could distance our efforts from the Barstool site and its content,” said Skipper.
The program always seemed a strange fit for ESPN. The Disney-owned sports programmer unveiled a deal with Barstool Sports, the digital-media firm majority-owned by the Chernin Group, to create “Barstool Van Talk”earlier this month. The interview/comedy show was hosted by Barstool’s Dan “Big Cat” Katz and PFT Commenter and produced by Henry Lockwood, the trio who produce the comedic sports podcast “Pardon My Take” along with Embassy Row. The show often uses a mocking tone for much of mainstream sports media.
Barstool’s writers have reveled in being obnoxious — the tone is de rigueur at the company — and staffers have been called out for racist and sexist comments.
ESPN football host Samantha Ponder recently took to social media to call out Barstool writers for the way they described her on the site. She also expressed disappointment in ESPN for aligning with Barstool despite some of its content.
In a video released via social media, Barstool founder Dave Portnoy cited internal pressure within ESPN as a factor in the decision to halt the program. “ESPN needed us more than we needed them,” said Portnoy, noting that ESPN, by dint of its size and reach, must “cater” to a wide range of interests and constituents, while Barstool does not. Portnoy said Barstool was not sexist or racist. “We make fun of everybody.”
“We will suffer a couple of setbacks,” he said. “ESPN had to know who they were getting into business with.”