The Chernin Group, the firm led by media investor Peter Chernin, has taken a majority stake in the controversial sports blog website Barstool Sports. Jesse Jacobs and Mike Kerns of TCG will join the Barstool Sports board. There will be a non-editorial management shuffle and the opening of a new content studio in Manhattan.
Barstool Sports announced the deal in a post on their website Thursday, written in its breezy, macho house style. There’s a video, which you can watch below, that accompanied the announcement featuring one guy with no shirt on.
“Even though I’m not the majority owner of Barstool anymore I’m still 100 percent in charge of content,” Barstool chief Dave Portnoy wrote. “This was not my cash-out moment. This was our best shot to literally take this thing to the moon.”
Barstool Sports is a blog network that delivers content for the fraternity sports fan set, ranging from quick takes on media and culture to straight up video aggregation. Sample posts include “Guess That Ass” and this YouTube-based dispatch from a Tom Brady “Deflategate” hearing.
The website is also considered something of a nightmare for women, with an editorial leadership that frequently and flippantly dismisses the online harassment generated by its dude-heavy audience. Case in point: An article also published on Thursday on Sports Illustrated’s The Cauldron, titled “How Barstool Sports Uses Social Media as a Weapon.”
Writer Nick Stellini describes how Barstool writer “KFC” implicitly rallied the Barstool audience to harass somebody who criticized a pretty racist Twitter joke KFC had made about how Al Jazeera (the Qatari news network) sounds like Al Qaeda (the terror group). The harassment included a deluge of graphic insults and crude memes that are mostly slurs aimed at women.
“Not surprisingly, Barstool Sports never said anything to condemn the harassment and abuse levied by their community,” Stellini wrote. “To the contrary: If KFC’s victory-lap post is anything to go by, they rather enjoyed it.”
After the SI piece went up, Barstool appears to have added “WE WEAPONIZE SOCIAL MEDIA” to the banner at the top of their website, and it is literally selling t-shirts with phrase printed across the chest. This bad boy, anti-PC posture adopted by Barstool is a deliberate part of their brand-building; a beer can-crushing combativeness recognizable to almost anyone who has ever set foot in a college fraternity. Barstool’s popularity among this crowd, which is a highly engaged audience, is probably what was attractive to TCG.
Mike Kerns, president of digital at the Chernin Group, says the firm and Barstool are building a sports “fantasy factory” studio in Manhattan and “bringing in new management in areas outside of editorial to accompany the strength they have in content.” As for the harassment issue, Kerns says that the problem can’t be tied solely to Barstool Sports.
“Commenting in general, and maintaining a certain quality of discussion, is a problem Internet-wide — on the Yahoo homepage (which I ran), Tumblr, Reddit and so on. Barstool, on a much smaller level, fits into the problem,” Kerns told Re/code in a phone interview.
When asked if TCG would do anything to pressure Barstool to tone things down a bit, he said that “Barstool has 100 percent control of editorial, we’re never going to pressure them to do anything. Nothing to add beyond that.”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.