In pro wrestling parlance, a worked shoot is when the performers are within the general confines of the scripted story but nonetheless speaking with elements of how they truly feel in real life. Barstool, which has taken some of the surreal elements of that genre and applied them to an ongoing multi-platform reality show with Dave Portnoy and many of their other personalities, has one of those going on this week between Portnoy and new hire Kirk Minihane.
What started as a phone call on SiriusXM’s Barstool Radio on Monday, in which Minihane and his co-host Blind Mike were trying to get the latter a base pay around $28,000 a year and an incentive package for if/when Minihane’s daily podcast becomes financially successful, spilled into a heated separate-but-related discussion about Bob Murchison.
Murchison is a wealthy activist in the Boston area who has relentlessly lobbied advertisers to drop WEEI over the past few years, where Minihane and Gerry Callahan had a morning show that did gangbusters ratings. He has a transgendered son and began his campaign after the show had a discussion he believed to be transphobic, and also found a previous conversation along the lines of the recent Mario Lopez controversy involving the appropriate age for children to determine their gender. This whole saga was covered in-depth by Boston Magazine. Murchison has evidently followed Minihane to Barstool, and apparently cost them one advertiser so far.
Over the course of Minihane’s segments on the Barstool Radio shows Monday and Tuesday, Portnoy’s stance essentially boils down to a belief that it is messed up that this is happening, but also a preference that Minihane refrain from discussing Murchison further. To be clear, Portnoy is not ordering Minihane to stop bringing Murchison up, but has intimated that if Minihane keeps talking about Murchison and if Murchison successfully lobbies advertisers to drop tens of millions of dollars from Barstool, it will force a business decision to get rid of Minihane.
Given the controversies Portnoy himself has been embroiled in over the years, this may seem like an odd position for him to take. Nevertheless, he has also been consistent that, if it comes down to it, he prefers money to freedom of speech. Minihane, who could still be making about a million dollars a year at WEEI if he’d been willing to reach some sort of compromise with Murchison and his Entercom bosses, feels differently.
Further, Minihane says that WEEI’s strategy for him never to discuss Murchison a) didn’t have any success, and b) triggered his public mental health issues. Not one to back down from a fight, Minihane on his podcast accused Portnoy of being Disney-fied after Barstool was acquired by the Chernin Group and called him Davey Mouse and a pussy.
This is their full segment together from Tuesday:
Minihane has repeatedly said in the audio segments that he has had productive conversations with Barstool CEO Erika Nardini — to the extent that this distinction matters, this is a dispute with Portnoy as opposed to the company he founded — and that to refrain from discussing it would not only make no difference while presenting an affront to his ideals of free speech, but would also erode the quality of his show by stripping him of the ability to opine on a subject he finds very compelling.
Murchison certainly isn’t the first person to call on Barstool’s advertisers to drop them. If things stay on their current course, we’ll find out if he’s more impactful in that pursuit than others have been. Minihane believes he will be, while Portnoy understands that he’s a special force but isn’t so sure. Whether this is weeks or months down the road, it wouldn’t be particularly shocking if Minihane’s tenure at Barstool is unsustainable. In that case, we may see him go down the micro-subscription road.