On Thursday night, Barstool Sports Founder and President Dave Portnoy did more to help small businesses across the United States than Congress has been able to for months.
Portnoy, an outspoken critic of the restrictions federal and state governments have imposed on small business since last spring, announced on social media the establishment of The Barstool Fund, a relief fund for small businesses who have opted to continue paying employees despite the tough financial conditions the extensive restrictions have caused.
In his a previous rant on Instagram, which received nearly 6 million views since posted one week ago, Portnoy railed against politicians for stealing people’s right to work and earn a living. As a business founder himself, he knows personally how detrimental the restrictions are and how heartbreaking the losses can be.
“I can’t believe in this country that what I consider the most basic right of them all, the right to earn a living, the right to earn a livelihood, is now being stolen,” he said. “And they’re saying that they protect us. Let us protect ourselves. You’re not protecting a family that you just destroyed.”
While employing common sense reasoning, Portnoy described ways around the government guidelines that yield them purposeless, such as traveling several minutes away to dine in another city to avoid one’s own city’s restrictions.
“If somebody wants to go out, where do you think they’re going? House parties. It doesn’t even make sense. You’re not even protecting the people. The people who would be going to these restaurants are still going out, I promise you,” he said. “All you’re doing is ruining thousands and thousands and thousands of lives.”
Portnoy capped off the rant with one last condemnation of the government’s handling, but said he didn’t know how to fix the problem. A few days later, however, Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises CEO Marcus Lemonis challenged Portnoy to open a charity fund, pledging to donate $500,000 himself if Portnoy made it happen.
After a few days, Portnoy responded with the Barstool Fund, which will provide aid to as many small businesses “as humanly possible.”
Barstool fans are familiar with Portnoy’s daily “One Bite” pizza reviews, in which he reviews a new pizza restaurant alongside his cameraman, Frankie Borrelli. Loyal “One Bite” viewers know Borrelli’s father owns a pizza joint of his own. This, Portnoy noted, was part of his inspiration for the fund.
“Mr. Borrelli to his credit … is still paying his employees. He’s never shut off his payroll. He’s like ‘I’m going down with the ship. I can’t fathom not paying these people,'” Portnoy said.
Small business owners are encouraged to apply for a relief check via email with an explanation of their financial troubles and how much relief they require, along with the guarantee they continue to pay their employees. After businesses receive their initial check, the Barstool Fund will continue financing them as they need. Owners can apply at [email protected] Additionally, Barstool Sports is selling t-shirts from which 100 percent of the earnings go to the fund.
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) December 18, 2020
Last week’s rant came after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned indoor dining in his state. Although the fund is open to all struggling businesses across the county, much like Portnoy’s pizza reviews, the help is focused on New York City restaurants.
Still outraged at Cuomo’s decision, Portnoy said in Thursday’s video announcement that the most effective way to help businesses would be direct action by the government. Since nobody in government has stepped up, however, the Barstool president said he feels compelled to try his hand.
“The best plan is the government getting off their a** and issuing relief, billions of dollars, to these small business owners who are losing their livelihoods and have no recourse and no way to save it, through no fault of their own. Billions of dollars. That’s the solution, that’s the only solution really. But barring that, we’re going to do what we can,” he said.
After the initial Coronavirus relief benefits expired in July, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi held out for months on passing another bill, even turning down a $1.8 trillion-package offered by the Trump administration as a compromise. Ever since Biden appeared to have won the election, Pelosi and congressional leaders have claimed for weeks they are close to passing another pandemic aid agreement. Now they are up against a tight deadline and another potential government shutdown, and still have yet to finalize a $900 billion relief package.
Portnoy lauded restaurants and other small businesses for their grit and creativity throughout the pandemic, while attacking the government for its selfishness and lack of understanding. Because business owners have heart and stake in their company’s success, Portnoy said he’s inspired by their resilience in expanding seating outdoors, lengthening hours, and other tactics to comply with changes in guidelines.
“You have the glass in between the masks, you get the six feet of separation, fewer tables. They’ve been as creative as you can be to save their livelihoods, to save what they spent decades of blood, sweat, and tears building. They’ve done whatever. They scratched and clawed. And now a few politicians in New York are like ‘eh, you’re done, we’ll shut it down,'” he said.
Because of the state’s lack of involvement and care with those affected, he criticized the government for its sweeping suppression over this type of entrepreneurial resolve.
Instead of sitting by and watching as businesses fail and individuals struggle to maintain their livelihood as Congress has done, Portnoy did what few others with powerful positions have. While corporations proudly and publicly donated to social justice causes like Black Lives Matter this summer in an attempt to appease the Marxist group think, Portnoy sympathized with a vastly more marginalized group.
Portnoy’s dedication to small businesses respects that they are often self-made, hard-working, and stand to lose everything — not greedy and heartless capitalists the left often portrays them to be. Although he is worth over $100 million after 20 years with his company, Portnoy hasn’t lost touch with real people.
“These people aren’t going out of business because they’re not successful or not making money. It’s because they have no other choice. They’ve been dealt a hand that nobody could play,” he said.