Barstool Sports’ founder Dave Portnoy and CEO Erika Nardini joined “The Megyn Kelly Show” on Wednesday to discuss how they raised millions of dollars through the Barstool Fund to provide restaurant owners and staff with relief following extended COVID-19 lockdowns and tight financial situations.
Portnoy started the fund in December with $500,000 out of his own pocket and then used his connections and social media platform to get people to donate. As of Wednesday, Barstool raised more than $32,848,538 total for restaurants that “had a proven track record of success” and “have [done] the best possible job to keep their payroll and their employees paid.”
“At this point, we’re 200,000 individual donors, which is really remarkable and just kind of speaks to, despite small businesses being so obviously a part of America, we put a face to it, and everybody wants to help,” Portnoy said. “I think one of the beauties of this, I’ve said it a bunch, there’s so much crap in the world right now, with politics and everything else. This is a universal, sounds sappy, but pure cause. We don’t care about Democrats, Republicans, black, white, blue, purple, we’re just trying to help small businesses, and there really should be nobody in the world who is against what we’re trying to do. It should be something everyone can rally behind.”
Nardini added to the conversation, saying the organization received tens of thousands of applications for financial relief from struggling businesses in the past month.
“We’ve gotten rid of everything arduous in the process. We’ve built this whole infrastructure in the last three and a half weeks. We’ve worked 24/7 on it. We’ve done it in addition to our day jobs, and we’re having a pretty profound impact on companies who’ve maxed out,” Nardini said. “Business owners who’ve maxed out their credit cards, who’ve dipped into their 401k’s who have asked for money from family members just to keep people employed.”
Nardini also said it’s always been Barstool’s goal to “figure out how to make an impact” on the community.
“It’s heartbreaking because we can’t help as many companies as we want to. That’s the hardest part of this, which is there’s just so much need,” Nardini said.
The CEO and Portnoy also expressed frustration “when people criticize us for this being a PR play.”
“I think we are a very courageous company. I think it’s courageous right now to be authentic. I think it’s courageous to have a history. I think it’s courageous to actually say what you mean, publicly,” she continued. “Making jokes now is courageous. You talk to any entertainer, you talk to any comedian, you talk to any public persona — there is such pressure for conformity and such pressure for a unanimous opinion. Part of what has made Dave and I and Barstool so successful is that we have been so true to the spirit of the brand that he created in 2004. We have been absolutely fearless. We’ve been very blunt and authentic, and we’ve stayed committed to our fans.”
“I just think a lot that is written, it all comes from an agenda. People don’t take the time to do the research or the facts. So no, in general, I do not trust the media,” Portnoy added, also emphasizing that his attempts to help people are not a political ploy. “Everything with politics drives me kind of crazy. So I wouldn’t identify myself and haven’t for a long time as a Trump guy — neither negative or positive. I just think the extreme left and the extreme right and politics in general suck.”