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It’s On Us BU launches campaign to shut down Barstool BU

Barstool BU Instagram Account
Barstool BU’s Instagram account. Boston University’s It’s On Us chapter launched a petition July 7 to shut down the affiliate account of media company Barstool Sports, whose owner has been criticized for insensitive and offensive language. ILLUSTRATION BY CONOR KELLEY

By Alex Dowd

Content warning: This article discusses sexual assault.

Boston University’s chapter of It’s On Us — an organization dedicated to advocating for survivors and eradicating sexual assault on college campuses — launched their campaign to “shut down” Barstool BU July 7 with an Instagram post and a July petition.

Both call out Barstool BU, an affiliate of the national sports and pop culture media company Barstool Sports, and its founder, Dave Portnoy, for racist, sexist and homophobic comments that it says “are a slap to the face in the era of the #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter movement, as well as to minorities and survivors everywhere.” 

The petition has garnered more than 125 signatures so far, while the Instagram post has nearly 1,500 likes and has been shared via direct message almost 2,000 times. 

Kristen Schallert, co-founder and president of It’s On Us BU and a rising senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Sol Sanchez, the chapter’s social media manager and a rising sophomore in CAS, helped write the petition.

Schallert said the petition was sparked by “enough being enough,” noting in particular, a now-deleted post by Portnoy from 2010 on Barstool’s website which read, “even though I never condone rape, but if you’re a size 6 and you’re wearing skinny jeans, you kind of deserve to be raped.”

This isn’t Portnoy’s first controversy: The founder received backlash for a now-deleted 2016 tweet where he compared Colin Kapernick to Osama Bin Laden. In 2014, ESPN Reporter Sam Ponder said Portnoy suggested she “sex it up and be slutty” on-air. This incident caused ESPN to cancel “Barstool Van Talk” — a sports comedy show by Barstool — when the audio resurfaced in 2017, after only one episode.

The @barstoolsports account currently has 10.7 million followers, and @barstoolbu has 18,000, including many of the University’s official accounts, @bostonu, @bulibraries and @buhtc. 

Schallert said Barstool’s growing popularity is dangerous because it promotes a “culture that isn’t safe for survivors [of sexual assault] and for minorities,” and shutting down Barstool BU could start a larger movement.

“Hopefully it will have a domino effect throughout the country and shut down other chapters at other schools as well,” Schallert said.

Barstool BU declined requests for comment.

Schallert added that though the account is not affiliated with BU, she thinks @barstoolbu “certainly hurts” the University. 

She said the account has posted content featuring potentially underage drinking and housing or maintenance mishaps, some of which were posted without the subject’s knowledge or consent.

Sanchez noted that posting without consent was a recurring problem on the Barstool BU Instagram page.

“I know several people who in the past year or even in their first year got posted on Barstool without consenting to being posted and then being reprimanded by the University because of how they made the University look on social media,” she said. 

Rising CAS sophomore Somayya Upal said she had already unfollowed the Barstool BU account due to its content when it posted a TikTok she had made with friends after her first semester in the Seven-Year Liberal Arts/Medical Education Program.

“A joke amongst my medical program is how hard that program is,” she said. “So [the TikTok] was basically like, ‘Oh, I’m in a hard program but look I still had fun.’” 

Barstool reposted the video — not crediting Upal or asking for her consent — with the caption: “So who’s gonna tell her what second semester is like.” 

Though many users under the post defended her, the comment section contained comments telling her to get a reality check and wait until her second semester, among other negative responses to the video. 

Upal said she wasn’t aware of the video being reposted until a friend sent it to her.

“I was pretty sad when it first happened because I was a freshman and it was my first semester, I was like ‘okay this is BU culture I guess,” she said. “It’s a weird first impression.”

Upal added she contacted the account to receive credit for her video but still hasn’t received it.

“I think I did [direct message] them. I was like, ‘tag me in it, give me credit if you want to.’”

Although her experience with Barstool BU was negative, Upal said she thinks the account has a wholesome “backbone” with the idea of a community-based account to share jokes and relatable content. But she said the “offensive manner” doesn’t make it worth it.

“[Barstool BU] could be a really cute and cool idea, but when it’s done in this manner, it just has negative effects on how people think of women and minorities obviously,” Upal added. “Even if it is just jokes, it does have a big impact when the joke is at the expense of us.”

Others, however, still enjoy the account as it is. A BU student and Barstool follower, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of potential backlash, sees accounts like Barstool BU as inevitable.

“I’m not really bothered,” the student wrote in an email. “If there’s a demand for that kind of content, someone will just make a similar kind of account without the BU name/logo.”

BU spokesperson Colin Riley declined to comment on the petition but wrote in an email that “individual students and representatives of student groups can communicate issues and concerns directly with the Dean of Students office.” 

He wrote that to his knowledge, the University has not addressed or taken action against Barstool BU or the operators of the account despite the petition. 

“There needs to be major changes and unless it’s expressed strongly from us, the administration is not going to listen,” Upal added. “If we come more strongly, I can expect that there will be actual changes in terms of policy, in terms of how they post, who’s reviewing, what happens.” 

Schallert noted the continued popularity of becoming a “Barstool Athlete” as another reason for forming the petition.  

In the wake of the NCAA’s late June ruling to allow college athletes to monetize their name and collegiate fame, Barstool Sports and its affiliates have posted applications inviting students to represent Barstool and become a “Barstool Athlete” on social media. 

The Barstool athlete application consists of a Google Form asking for the athlete’s name, address, college, sport, social media handles and merchandise size to receive an exclusive Barstool shirt. 

According to Schallert, once the application is submitted, the athlete in question receives a Barstool Sports branded shirt.

“You wear a t-shirt and represent them, and that’s pretty much all you get out of it,” she said. “This corporation is already massive, and we don’t want it to grow any more than it has.”

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One Comment

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