Dave Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports and the face of Barstool Sportsbook, has made a career out of not knowing when to shut up. Seriously: At least in his public-facing life, he never stops talking, never stops hyping, never stops selling. And while he’s created a legitimate empire, his non-stop banter is manna for the Barstool haters out there. It’s rare a day goes by where someone, somewhere, doesn’t take issue with what comes out of Portnoy’s big mouth.
Welp, this time around, the haters are just going to have to take the ‘L,’ because Portnoy’s big mouth has raised over $18 million (and counting) in a little under three weeks and is directly responsible for saving 79 small businesses (and counting) in America.
And in true Portnoy style, this all started with a Twitter rant.
Politicians Are Stealing the Basic Right To Earn A Living pic.twitter.com/9Yx9Vf1iP1
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) December 11, 2020
“New York City just closed indoor dining,” he said on Dec. 11 from Miami in a Twitter post. “What do they think is gonna happen? They’re done. The bar and restaurant industry and small business have been squeezed and squeezed and squeezed. They’ve been as creative as they can be to save their livelihoods. And now a few politicians in New York are like ‘eh, you’re done, we’re shutting it down.’ How do you expect these people to survive?”
He then launched into a coronavirus diatribe, saying we should be able to choose for ourselves our own level of risk we’re willing to take on and so forth, some clearly controversial talking points in these Trying Times™.
But he finished with a flourish.
“The right to earn a livelihood is being stolen by a few politicians,” he said. “Politicians are taking away the right to earn a living. It’s that simple, and it’s insanity. I don’t know what the answer is, but it is insanity.”
‘The Profit’ star steps in
Enter Marcus Lemonis, he of “The Profit” on CNBC, and a classic schoolyard dare.
“Hey @stoolpresidente,” he typed in response to Portnoy’s rant. “Put your money where your mouth is … I’ll put up 500k if you match it to create a relief fund for NYC area restaurants.”
— Marcus Lemonis (@marcuslemonis) December 12, 2020
A day later, Lemonis hadn’t heard back, and doubled down with a “Still waiting” tweet.
Then later that day from Lemonis: “He responded and he is in.”
Clearly, this was not exactly small potatoes. A million bucks to help struggling New York restaurants. But Portnoy, apparently, was inspired further. On Dec. 17, he announced the launch of the Barstool Fund in another Twitter video message.
“OK I’ve been ranting and raving lately about the plight of small business in the United States … and no one seems to care in the government,” he said. “Marcus Lemonis challenged me and said why don’t you put your money where your mouth is. Well, I’ve spent the last several days doing exactly that. We’ve come up with a plan. Is it the best plan? No. The best plan is the government getting off their ass and issuing relief, billions of dollars, to these small business owners who are losing their livelihoods.”
He then went on to detail his brainchild: for The Barstool Fund, which allows any small business that has maintained payroll throughout the pandemic to apply for relief money. How much they need to get through January. Portnoy has said there were no other requirements. Just send an email to email@example.com, they’d comb through them, and pick businesses to support. Furthermore: It wasn’t going to be a one-shot deal. If the business needs help in February, March, whenever until there is a return to normalcy, a check would be cut.
Introducing The Barstool Fund
If you are a small business that needs help staying in business because of covid email us your story to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will try to help as many people as we can. pic.twitter.com/9BS8HeyHaq
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) December 17, 2020
“I don’t care how I get the money,” he said. “If I need to raise more money, if I had to pay it myself, whatever it is, I’ll get creative, but once you’re in our program, we will pay whatever you need to get through this thing and give you a fair chance to run your business. We’re going to try and save as many small businesses as we can.”
And thus, the fund was launched.
Portnoy calls them out
Of course, Portnoy wasn’t done with Twitter. He started hitting up celebrity friends — like New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman — and enemies — like Darren Rovell of The Action Network — alike. Poker star Daniel Negreanu chipped in $25K. Tom Brady announced on Twitter he was pitching in. The Mayor of Flavortown, Guy Fieri, donated, and called on his constituents to donate as well. Kid Rock went in for $100,000. Penn National Gaming — the owner of the Barstool Sportsbook — just donated $1 million on Tuesday.
Add it all up — from over 148,000 people (and counting) who donated — and over $18 million has been raised and 79 businesses on the brink of collapse due to COVID-19 have been saved.
And it’s a different Portnoy being seen on Twitter these days, as he’s posting video after video of appreciative business owners getting “the call” from Portnoy, letting them know their businesses will survive.
Some might call it self-serving, others might call it heart warming, but what no one can call it is “not helpful.” There is joy, there are tears, there are heartfelt thanks. It’s truly must-see TV.
“We’re calling everyone, and the reactions are truly … you know, I’m not the softest guy ever to come down the pike, but even me, it hits me and I think that’s why everybody’s donating,” Portnoy told Butch Stearns of Channel 25 News in Boston.
Talking #BarstoolFund on @boston25 @stoolpresidente and the good folks @barstoolsports are changing peoples lives. Dave Portnoy joined us on @Bos25Sports Sportswrap on Sunday night. Consider making a donation. https://t.co/V7lhzp0c5M https://t.co/7IhGGXkcrf via @YouTube
— Butch Stearns (@ButchStearns) January 4, 2021
Local media — always on the lookout for a feel-good story — has waded into the waters, with small town papers and big city dailies (and their television counterparts) both jumping on the story when a business in their coverage area gets the Barstool lifeline.
“‘It just stopped my heart:’ Cash from Barstool a ‘lifesaver’ for Wallingford restaurant,’” was the headline in a recent New Haven (Connecticut) Register story.
And Portnoy’s video of the call letting that restaurant know they qualified for the fund … well, Portnoy probably put it best on the tweet: “If this call to Laskara doesn’t make you cry nothing will.”
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) January 2, 2021
From ABC 7 in Detroit: “‘God bless you,’ said Julie, barely making out the words in a recorded Facetime call with Dave Portnoy from Barstool Sports,” is how that station started its story concerning Salon Volume in Allen Park, Mich. (No word if Portnoy plans on stopping by for a cut and color once he vacates the sunny climes of Miami for Michigan and the Barstool Sportsbook app launch, which is expected sometime this month.)
But it’s not just local media covering the goings-on: It’s just regular people, like Angela Leaf, who posted a video of her dad — a small business owner — and his new “nightly tradition,” which basically consists of tearing up at the notion of people helping people.
This has become a nightly tradition. My dad, a small business owner, watches the latest #barstoolfund videos from @stoolpresidente with tears in his eyes. He donated yesterday and said, “I just hope that if it were me, another small business owner would be there to lift me up.” pic.twitter.com/R2ItFSdBFR
— Angela Leaf (@angelagriffey) December 31, 2020
Portnoy has not announced an end date for the fund, and he’s still out there on Twitter, numerous times a day, pitching.
His most recent tweet, at the time of this writing? Posted minutes after he was featured on The Today Show Wednesday morning: “Thank you @TODAYshow Not to be greedy but we need more donations for #barstoolfund. We don’t want to slow down. Let’s hit 20 million.”