Since she was hired as CEO of Barstool Sports in July 2016, Erika Nardini has done countless interviews about the company’s growing revenue and “disruptive” business model of publishing misogyny because it’s fun. (Some greatest hits are in the video above.)
In these press hits, Nardini shows herself to be a master of saying as little as possible. She trots out the same stories about growing up a Patriots fan and how her female friends abandoned her after she took the Barstool gig, and says she’s proud of what the company has accomplished. She likes to mention there were 74 other applicants for her job, all of whom were men. She tells obsequious interviewers that Barstool is successful because it “doesn’t have an agenda,” and on the rare cases in which she’s asked about the chauvinism that is very much its agenda, she turns it into some meta-commentary. (“I’m used to it by now,” she told the New York Times last year. “Every time anyone mentions us in the media, they’re always going to write that requisite paragraph.”)
The reason Nardini does these interviews, of course, is not to say something interesting about the company she runs or about being a woman in the male-dominated field of sports media, but to launder Barstool’s image. See, she practically screams, Barstool can’t be misogynistic, because I’m a woman! All those other women, the harpies constantly bitching about how they’re relentlessly harassed by my employees and our readers, just need to lighten up and be cool like me! The journalistic outlets that publish these interviews are simply being played.
The latest victim of Nardini’s manipulation is our parent company, whose TV channel apparently airs a show at 9 a.m. on Sunday mornings that features the CEO of Cheddar interviewing random successful people about random topics. The CEO of Cheddar decided he wanted to interview women leaders in sports media for this week’s show, and rather than asking the female editor-in-chief of ESPN the Magazine or the female editor-in-chief of SB Nation or the female executive producer of ESPN Films (and, yes, hi, the sports publication operated by Fusion Media Group now has a female editor-in-chief too), he chose Nardini and Jenna Wolfe, the host of FS1's morning show. He did this interview, and Fusion decided to air it, despite the fact that a number of Fusion Media Group employees have been on the receiving end of misogynist and/or racist abuse from Barstool employees and fans.
The Fusion show, which for whatever reason went up on YouTube three days before it formally airs on Sunday, is largely boring for exactly the reasons all of Nardini’s interviews are largely boring. The funniest and stupidest part is that she showed up wearing a sweatshirt that says “Féminin,” which I initially misread as “Feminist” but in fact is just the French word for “female.” Nardini and the CEO of Cheddar never discuss misogyny, though she does get a chance to plug the fact that five of her last six hires were women. “And I get what I’m gonna have to answer to,” she says, despite literally never having answered to any of it, “but I also am really proud of what we’ve built, and I wish I had more of an opportunity to talk about that.”
The video at the top of this post shows just a small sample of the work Nardini is so proud of. If you’d like to talk about it further, Erika, my email address is in my bio.