The Nationwide Ladies’s Hockey League released a statement Tuesday criticizing Barstool Sports activities CEO Erika Nardini for a video she posted calling out some ladies’s hockey followers and journalists who’ve publicly voiced their disapproval of her help for the upstart group.
How did we get thus far?
Nardini has promoted the NWHL via Barstool, most just lately welcoming Metropolitan Riveters gamers Kelly Babstock and Rebecca Russo on her podcast to hype the league’s 2021 season. The league is taking part in a bubble match in Lake Placid, New York, with 24 video games scheduled between six groups from Jan. 23 via Feb. 5. Playoff rounds will observe the two-week stretch to find out the Isobel Cup winner. Final yr, the Isobel Cup Remaining was canceled because of the Covid-19 shutdown.
After Nardini’s podcast was launched, a number of ladies’s hockey followers and journalists tweeted their objections to Barstool. The corporate has lengthy been accused of publishing misogynistic content and harassing its critics.
The response prompted Nardini to launch a video Monday night time in regards to the matter. In it, Nardini defends her advocacy of the NWHL, whereas screenshots from her critics’ social media accounts had been posted on the display. “Personally, I don’t know why my effort is a foul factor,” Nardini mentioned. “I additionally suppose it’s fascinating to see a few of the individuals in ladies’s hockey who I’ve had nice conversations with activate Twitter and simply fake none of that occurred.”
The message solely sparked extra outrage, and this time, a few of the league’s gamers joined in. Riveters rookie Saroya Tinker, one of many NWHL’s few gamers of colour, issued a strong rebuke of Barstool, writing the NWHL doesn’t “need help from ANY overtly racist platform.”
In its sixth season, the NWHL is hoping to capitalize on newfound momentum for girls’s sports activities, which obtained a robust increase when the US ladies’s nationwide soccer crew beat the Netherlands to win the World Cup. Whereas males’s professional sports activities leagues skilled scores declines in 2020, the WNBA noticed viewership increase by 15%, and the Nationwide Ladies’s Soccer League skilled a seismic 493% increase.
At this level, the NWHL has but to show a revenue, reports SportsMoney’s Justin Birnbaum, and the wage cap was pegged at simply $150,000 final season. However there are vital indicators of progress. The 2021 Isobel Cup semifinals and finals will likely be broadcast on NBC Sports, placing ladies’s professional hockey on a significant U.S. TV community for the primary time.
Barstool boasts an exceptionally massive viewers, with two of its podcasts, “Pardon My Take” and “Name Her Daddy,” registering because the No. 7 and No. 11 most-downloaded podcasts within the U.S., respectively. Penn Nationwide Gaming purchased Barstool for $450 million last year. Conceivably, Barstool’s backing may increase a nascent sports activities league.
However the firm’s controversial historical past complicates issues for the NWHL. On Tuesday, commissioner Tyler Tumminia criticized Nardini for publicizing the names of NWHL supporters and journalists to the Barstool viewers in her aforementioned video.
“There is no such thing as a circumstance the place it might be acceptable to name out lots of the reporters, employees members and followers who’ve given a lot to ladies’s hockey, particularly understanding that these individuals might be focused or harassed on social media,” Tumminia’s assertion reads. “I am involved in regards to the affect of the video and the aftermath of it on members of the NWHL household. Collectively, we are going to do every thing we are able to to work via it with open communication and transparency.”
NWHL Gamers’ Affiliation director Anya Packer didn’t return a message searching for remark.
Later Tuesday, Nardini launched another video defending the clip in query. “What the video had was all of the journalists and bloggers who do not like Barstool,” she mentioned. “I known as them out. I assume I am not supposed to do this as a result of I, as a lady, may be known as out and I am imagined to take it. This morning, I bought informed I ought to apologize for it, which is bulls—.”
When reached for remark, Nardini didn’t instantly present a further assertion.
Because the season progresses, it is going to be fascinating to see whether or not NWHL gamers proceed to affiliate themselves with the Barstool model. Regardless of Nardini’s curiosity, NWHL officers told ESPN there isn’t any monetary association between the league and Barstool.
This story is a quintessential instance of the diverting pursuits sports activities leagues should think about in as we speak’s age. Barstool might elevate the NWHL’s model, however lots of its most devoted followers clearly object to the corporate’s content material.
As for Barstool, it’s already profiting off the controversy. Barstool is now promoting “Nardini Hockey League” sweatshirts.