A scroll through the Instagram account @olemisschicks provides more or less exactly what you would expect from an account of that name: recycled memes and Tiktoks about football or finals week. Their Instagram bio states that they are a direct affiliate of Barstool Sports but not affiliated with the University of Mississippi. On Oct. 1, they posted a video of a man with glasses and a scruffy beard lamenting his love for our university with the caption “So when are you coming to Oxford, @stoolpresidente?” This man, reverently nicknamed El Presidente by his legions of online fans, is the founder of Barstool Sports, Dave Portnoy.
Portnoy started Barstool Sports in 2003 as a free, black-and-white gambling and fantasy sports newspaper in Boston. Today, Barstool is a vast content-creating company spanning multiple platforms, with their main Instagram account boasting 12.3 million followers and the company being recently valued at $450 million.
Portnoy’s strange and cult-like following takes an increasingly disturbing shape the more you examine it. Almost exactly one month after @olemisschicks extended an invite to Portnoy, allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse erupted around the magic man who built the company up from nothing. At least two women have come forward to accuse Portnoy of violent sexual behavior and exploitation. Using a pseudonym, the first claims she and Portnoy began to have consensual sex when he started to film her without her permission and continued to have sex with her after she pleaded with him to stop. The woman, using the pseudonym Madison, was 20 years old when the alleged encounter took place. Portnoy was 43.
In the same explosive report from Insider, another woman, using the name Alison, alleged that a similar pattern of violence and exploitation occurred during a sexual encounter with Portnoy. She described feeling “very preyed on” and described Portnoy as “really aggressive,” behavior which she claims triggered vivid suicidal actions and hospitalization following the event. The alleged misconduct occurred just weeks after “Allison’s” high school graduation. She was 19.
While Portnoy took to Twitter immediately after the report surfaced to decry it as a libelous hit piece, his history of behavior and vitriol towards women certainly does not help his case. Since 2016, female reporters and sports journalists have been sounding the alarms about Barstool and its legion of followers’ sexist online harassment and behavior. As early as 2010, Portnoy wrote in a blog post “Even though I never condone rape, if you’re a size 6 and you’re wearing skinny jeans you kind of deserve to be raped, right?”
Knowing this, it’s no surprise to look through @olemisschicks’ Instagram and see such gut-wrenchingly misogynistic posts like a picture of a sign that reads “Nick Saban can’t handle Ole Miss’s D but his daughter can.” Even if the account is ostensibly run by women, they are actively fostering and condoning an environment where rape, sexual assault and harassment and good old-fashioned sexism are ignored, defended and played off as a joke. Barstool and Dave Portnoy aren’t going anywhere, but the women at @olemisschicks can end their affiliation with the company and its bigoted founder. To the women at @olemisschicks: there is no excuse, no wavering left for you to do. This is a binary decision. You either endorse Portnoy and every single one of his abominable statements and actions towards women, or you admit that you were wrong to associate with the company and move on. I sincerely hope it’s not a difficult choice to make.
Katherine Broten is a junior majoring in economics and public policy leadership from Farmington, New Mexico.