The County Board of Supervisors of Pima County voted to revoke public funding of the Arizona Bowl this week over concerns about Barstool Sports, the title sponsor of the college football game played at Arizona Stadium in Tucson.
The Pima County Board voted 4-1 in favor of canceling money they had earmarked for the college bowl game, because of their concerns over comments and behavior by Barstool founder Dave Portnoy and others associated with the media company.
In July, Barstool Sports was awarded title sponsorship of what will be called the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl. The game will be played on December 31, and it will be notable as the first bowl game in NCAA history to be exclusively broadcast on a website and mobile app. Barstool will stream the broadcast on their app, website, and also via social media.
“I feel that the current sponsor does not represent who we are as a region or as a community. I don’t see how we, in good conscience, can give financial support to an organization with a documented history of offensive and inappropriate statements,” District 3 Supervisor Sharon Bronson told Tucson’s KGUN 9. Bronson also serves as chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
Portnoy has drawn criticism in the past for making comments some have identified as being insensitive to women, and some have called misogynistic. For example, ESPN on-air personality Sam Ponder called out Portnoy and Barstool for making statements about her family and her sexuality in 2014, and again in 2018. In 2020, a video emerged showing Portnoy and other Barstool employees comparing former NFL quarterback and social activist Colin Kaepernick to terrorists. Portnoy has instead claimed his comments were jokes, not to be taken seriously, or that they were quoted out of context.
In an official statement, Barstool neglected to address the merits of the criticism, saying: “While we are disappointed, the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl will continue to spotlight the best of our community, create significant economic impact, and provide tremendous support to our local nonprofits.”
About the Arizona Bowl
The Arizona Bowl was first played in 2015, but since it is scheduled during a post-season period against many other college bowl games, it has struggled to find an audience. The decision to forego a traditional telecast for this year’s game and rely on Barstool Sports to broadcast it online was seen as an effort to maintain relevance amid the large bowl menu and also increase engagement with fans. Social media and streaming through an app or website allows college football followers to comment on the action in real-time to a wide audience of viewers.
About Barstool Sports
Barstool Sports was founded by Portnoy in 2003 as a sports fan website. It’s grown into an online media company supported heavily by two primary investors: The Chernin Group and Penn National Gaming. Barstool launched its branded sportsbook in Pennsylvania in 2020 and has since also expanded into Michigan. The Barstool brand includes sports and pop culture video channels and blogs, as well as an app that appeals to sports fans and followers of celebrity. Barstool Sportsbooks recently announced a sports betting partnership with NASCAR in Arizona to launch its app and open a retail sportsbook at Phoenix Raceway.