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Erika Nardini, Ex-CMO of AOL, Joins Dude-Focused Barstool Sports as CEO

Erika Nardini - Barstool Sports
Courtesy of Barstool Sports

Erika Nardini, former chief marketing officer of AOL, has been hired as CEO of Barstool Sports — the churlish, sports-and-smut website for males that’s majority-owned by Chernin Group.

Her hiring, announced Tuesday, may be a bid to blunt Barstool detractors who have criticized the site for its unapologetically sexist tone. Barstool Sports will now operate under the leadership of Nardini “while still maintaining its anti-establishment nature,” according to the company.

Barstool Sports, founded by David Portnoy, covers sports, entertainment, politics and news with what it calls a “comedic” lens. The website, which claims to pull in 250 million views per month, includes a regular feature called “Guess That Ass” and has a dedicated “girls” section with photos of scantily-clad women. A writer for Sports Illustrated’s The Cauldron site in January accused the site of dealing “in masturbatory, self-aggrandizing sexism” and said its staffers use social media as a weapon; Barstool responded by selling T-shirts that say “We Weaponize Social Media.”

The Chernin Group in January 2016 acquired a majority stake in Barstool Sports, in a deal Portnoy said valued the company at between $10 million and $15 million. Barstool has since moved its headquarters from Boston to New York City.

“We needed somebody with big-ass balls, dragging on the ground, alpha male,” Portnoy says in a video shot in Times Square announcing Nardini’s hire. “We have found our CEO, our boss, a masculine boy.” He then introduces Nardini, who announces her name and title, and then drops the mic and walks off. In the video, Portnoy and three underlings also catcall to a woman who strolls in front of the camera.

Most recently, Nardini was president and chief revenue officer of Bkstg, a New York-based startup focused on delivering direct-to-fan content for music artists. She served as chief marketing officer of AOL from January 2013 to December 2014, and before that worked in sales and marketing for Demand Media, Yahoo and Microsoft.

Current posts on Barstool Sports include “Chick Riding The Q Train With Her Big Old Boob Flopping Out,” “Leslie Jones Had a Twitter Meltdown Because She Couldn’t Handle Twitter Racists Trolling Her” and “Wild Boar Terrorizes A Beach In Poland And Truck Sticks Two Full Grown Men.”

Among the misogynistic content on Barstool Sports is a September 2015 post by Portnoy — who goes by “El Presidente” on the site — in which he called 2015 Miss America winner Betty Cantrell a “communist whore,” a “fucking whore,” a “fucking bitch” and a “cunt” because she said she thought that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady “definitely cheated” in the Deflategate scandal. Portnoy didn’t mention her by name.