‘Grow a Pair’: Dave Portnoy Fires Back at Women’s Hockey League for Criticizing His Female CEO

Dave Portnoy
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The dustup between Barstool Sports and the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) continued this week after Barstool chief Dave Portnoy slammed the league, telling them to “grow a pair” for attacking his female CEO.

The women’s hockey league had criticized Barstool’s female CEO, Erika Nardini, after several videos she made criticizing their organization, even though she is a big supporter of women’s hockey.

But Portnoy came to Nardini’s defense in a Tuesday video, saying, “I have to come to the defense of Erika Nardini.”

Portnoy called Nardini “the best hire I’ve ever made” and praised her for helping turn Barstool Sports into a multimillion-dollar company.

He also noted that Nardini. has been a big supporter of the women’s hockey league.

“Erika, who led this, who led this revolution,” Portnoy said in his video, “this charge, this success story, also passionate about hockey. Loves it. Plays it. Supports it. Invested in it, probably the number one supporter of a league called the National Women’s Hockey League. The NWHL. You probably didn’t know it existed. The only reason I know it existed — don’t let the headlines fool you — is because, in 2013, a girl named Denna Laing got a spinal cord injury playing in the Winter Classic in Boston, and guess what company drew attention to it and raised $100,000 and brought more attention and more money to the cause? We did.”

Portnoy went on to talk about the recent dustup between Nardini and the NWHL and noted that if he and Barstool created a new women’s hockey league, it would probably leave the failed NWHL in the dust.

“If you want to start our own league and put these f***ing clowns out of business, I’m in,” Portnoy said he told Nardini.

Portnoy ended his video by saying, “And all you people who kept your mouths shut can come play in our league, but the ‘white supremacist crap’ girl, you’re done. And everyone else who talked s*** about it, you’re done. I highly advise if you have a backbone or a spine in that league, show some now. You know who Erika is; I know who she is. Grow a pair!”

The whole thing started on Monday when Nardini posted a podcast taking to task some of the people involved in the women’s hockey league. Nardini did not come by her criticism offhanded, though. For several years she has been supporting and attempting to work with the women’s league to promote their sport, only to face constant rejection.

In her video, Nardini even noted that she has looked into buying an NWHL team to further help grow the sport’s profile. “I’m not going to go anywhere; I’m going to root for them every single day, and I hope more people do too,” she said, adding, “Everybody knows I want to buy a team. You want to help me buy a team?”

Nardini has often spoken of the NWHL and even had players from the league’s Metropolitan Riveters team on her popular podcast.

But NWHL commissioner Tyler Tumminia went on the attack against Nardini, accusing her of “harassing” the league, its players, reporters, and staffers. Other members of the league went o to falsely claim that Barstool Sports is a place for “white supremacists.”

“There is no circumstance where it would be acceptable to call out many of the reporters, staff members and fans who have given so much to women’s hockey, especially knowing that these people could be targeted or harassed on social media,” NWHL commissioner Tyler Tumminia said in a statement reported by ESPN. “I’m concerned about the impact of the video and the aftermath of it on members of the NWHL family. Together, we will do everything we can to work through it with open communication and transparency.”

Nardini didn’t take it lying down and struck back slamming the league for taking her money but then working to try and make sure no one knows she supported them by refusing to allow Nardini to participate in the same way they allow other patrons.

She also refused to apologize for her previous criticism.

“What the video had was all the journalists and bloggers who don’t like Barstool … I called them out. I guess I’m not supposed to do that because I, as a woman, can be called out and I’m supposed to take it. This morning, I got told I should apologize for it, which is bulls—,” Portnoy said in the video.

Here is the full transcript of Portnoy’s comments:

Okay. Emergency press conference time. I didn’t want to do this, and I was thinking I wasn’t going to do it because most people probably don’t even know what I’m about to talk about is going on, and I’ll only draw more attention to it, and the people who don’t like us will drag us, but I have to come to the defense of Erika Nardini.

So obviously, she’s our CEO, the best hire I’ve ever made, has taken Barstool Sports in 2016 from a $15 million dollar company to close to a billion dollar company. The only human, I honestly believe this, in the world who could have done that. Not only one of the most powerful, best executives in sports, the best [executive] in business.

Our company, while called sexist, chauvinistic, whatever you want to call it, being led by a female, a female CFO, a female CRO, so three of the top four executives, outside of me, all female. But we’re “sexist,” we’re just “doing it for looks,” having basically an entire female executive board take us from a small company to one of the most successful media companies in the world, but we’re just doing it for show. Whatever.

Erika, who led this, who led this revolution, this charge, this success story, also passionate about hockey. Loves it. Plays it. Supports it. Invested in it, probably the number one supporter of a league called the National Women’s Hockey League. The NWHL. You probably didn’t know it existed. The only reason I know it existed — don’t let the headlines fool you — is because in 2013, a girl named Denna Laing got a spinal cord injury playing in the Winter Classic in Boston, and guess what company drew attention to it and raised $100,000 and brought more attention and more money to the cause? We did.

Whatever, I digress. I’m just showing we’ve supported this league before and women’s hockey before. This isn’t a new thing.

For Erika, though, she has dove two feet into it; wants to buy a team; she has players on her podcast, token CEO. She has talked with management; she’s been as involved and as instrumental as any person in this league getting it attention.

You’d think a league that barely anybody knows about would welcome that, crave that.

Well, they have — until this weekend, when a couple of female journalists who cover the league, out of the clouds, took shots at Erika. Blatant shots. Being like, “We don’t want this woman; she’s trash; she’s racist; she’s sexist.” There’s an article on Deadspin, either Erika Nardini is the most evil person or the stupidest person on the planet, or both.

The same Erika I just described, who took us from $15 million to a billion, is probably the number one, number two female executive in sports in the world. Yeah, she’s evil. Deadspin, the company that went bankrupt, said that. Yeah, they did.

A player in the league, a player in the league in the NWHL, said Barstool is “white supremacist,” and doesn’t want to be associated with us. You should be in jail for that. To call a company “white supremacist” without a shred of proof because I sang a Ja Rule song five years ago, is that it? Like, at some point I kept waiting for the commissioner of the league or the players who’ve been on Erika’s podcast to step and be like, “We know this woman, and we know this company. You’re wrong. We don’t stand with you.”

But nope. They just fell in line, one after another, like cowards, to the point the league commissioner does a press release to air because nobody gives a f*** except us, and I’m personally offended that they could be that rude, dishonest, and treacherous. Just to fall in line because of the political climate; God forbid they’re wrong, who gives a f***, we just better go with whatever way the political winds are blowing, a girl in the league said we’re white supremacists, get out of here. Erika has had your back forever. You didn’t have the dignity to have her back? It’s disgusting, and it’s everything that’s wrong. Any player in that league, I guarantee you, would jump to our league if we had one. They’re scared because they have nowhere else to play.

But this league sucks and is doomed, is being run by a couple of no-fun club losers. Let me say that clearly: the people who attacked Erika — and then when Erika responds, like, “Oh, my God! Erika’s attacking us! She’s siccing her army on us!”

You f***ing dragged her, unprovoked, on social media, on Twitter, for no reason, and then you scream boo-hoo when she doesn’t even respond, really, she’s like, “You’d think they’d want me to help rather than trash me.”

Well, f*** you people. She’s a lot nicer than I am, but I literally told her, “Hey, Erika, you want to start” — and I don’t care about women’s hockey, I barely care about men’s hockey — “But if you want to start our own league and put these f***ing clowns out of business, I’m in.”

And all you people who kept your mouths shut can come play in our league, but the “white supremacist crap” girl, you’re done. And everyone else who talked s*** about it, you’re done. I highly advise if you have a backbone or a spine in that league, show some now. You know who Erika is; I know who she is. Grow a pair.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Facebook at: facebook.com/Warner.Todd.Huston.

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