Pima County Cuts Ties With Arizona Bowl Due To Barstool Sports Sponsorship

Written By Grant Lucas on September 2, 2021 - Last Updated on January 30, 2023
Pima County Cuts Arizona Bowl Ties

Just a few weeks ago, the Arizona Bowl made waves by announcing a sponsorship with Barstool Sports. The deal not only puts Barstool logos on a college football bowl game. It also allows Barstool to stream the postseason contest in Tuscon on its own network.

But not everyone celebrated the marriage. In fact, the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted this week to withdraw almost $40,000 from funding the bowl game. In addition, the board requested the Arizona Bowl website remove the county’s name.

All because of Barstool’s controversial history.

Board of supervisors vote to remove Arizona Bowl funding

As reported by the Arizona Daily Star, the board viewed “a series of inflammatory statements and tweets” made by Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool. Among them, a post from May 2010 in which Portnoy said:

“Though I never condone rape, if you’re a Size 6 and wearing skinny jeans, you kind of deserve to be raped, right?”

According to the newspaper, board supervisor Sharon Bronson responded, “This is not who Pima County is.” During an Aug. 10 meeting, Bronson expressed how she could not see “how, in good conscience, (Pima County) can give financial support to an organization with a documented history of offensive and inappropriate statements.”

Ultimately, the county board of supervisors voted 4-1 to withdraw $38,155.56 in funding. The board has yet to decide how to reallocate that money. Bronson suggested directing it to a domestic violence charity.

Only Steve Christy voted against the motion, labeling Arizona Bowl leaders as “the best examples of good judgment and leadership.” Christy had also emphasized that “political grandstanding” will not kill the bowl or its Barstool sponsorship.

Arizona Bowl defends Barstool as sponsor

Kym Adair, executive director of the Arizona Bowl, defended the game’s new sponsor in a letter to the board.

In the letter, Adair highlighted Barstool’s commitment to diversity. She noted how Barstool boasts a female CEO, Erika Nardini, as well as an all-female executive group and a staff of 280 individuals that is “inclusive of every race, creed, color, and sexual orientation.”

Adair continued, spotlighting charitable efforts by Barstool. Portnoy, the letter pointed out, Portnoy helped raise $40 million for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then, Adair called Barstool “an internet comedy company,” one that has cracked jokes “that have missed” and has created comedy and content “that didn’t land or stand the test of time.” She added that Barstool has “evolved” since its 2004 founding.

Despite the effort, Adair’s letter could not sway the board of supervisors, including Rex Scott.

“I have no right to judge them. What I do have the right to do is be one of five people who decide if the county’s name and the public revenues entrusted to us should be associated with a bowl that has Barstool Sports as a title sponsor, and that I cannot do.”

Barstool Sports laying roots in Arizona

Pima County severed ties with the Arizona Bowl because of its sponsor affiliation. But Barstool still has much to look forward to in the Grand Canyon State.

After all, it seems as if the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl will continue as is, with Barstool’s names and featuring teams from the Mountain West and Mid-American conferences. In addition, the Dec. 31 game will stream exclusively on Barstool’s digital and social media platforms, per terms of the deal.

This sponsorship came on the heels of Penn National Gaming, which owns Barstool, partnering with Phoenix Raceway to give Barstool an avenue to the Arizona sports betting market.

Last week, the Arizona Department of Gaming awarded an event wagering license to the racetrack, which essentially green-lit Barstool Arizona for launch and allow the sportsbook to join other AZ betting apps to begin accepting legal wagers as early as Sept. 9.

Photo by AP / Rick Scuteri
Grant Lucas Avatar
Written by
Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sports writer who has covered the high school, collegiate and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield and Oregon State athletics, the Portland Trail Blazers and golf throughout his career.

View all posts by Grant Lucas