It appears that student-athletes in the state of Kentucky will not be able to link up with any variation of the Barstool brand in NIL (name, image, and likeness) deals after the University of Louisville said that the brand “does not comply” with its own policies, with a June executive order from the governor falling along the same lines.
The notice didn’t mention specifics, but the consensus speculation is that the opposition is due to Barstool existing as a national sports betting brand. Gambling on sports of any kind hasn’t been legalized in the Bluegrass State, unlike neighbors such as Indiana and Tennessee. It’s not yet clear if or when Kentucky will allow sports gambling, or if Barstool Sportsbook, a product from casino operator Penn National Gaming, would receive a license. But it’s also not clear if legalization and licensure for Barstool Sportsbook would even matter in this context.
I thought they created a new company that wasn't involved with Penn/sports betting, that was the umbrella for Barstool sponsored athletes?
— Nick de la Torre (@delatorre) August 10, 2021
Other major state school could follow suit
A report from Kentucky Sports Radio stated that the move is “likely” due to gambling.
“The issue likely stems from Barstool’s partnership with Penn National, a company that owns and operates casinos and hotels nationwide,” the report stated. “Penn National has a 36% stake in Barstool, which has its own sportsbook. As we are all well aware, sports gambling … is still illegal in Kentucky.”
While the University of Louisville said that Barstool doesn’t comply with Gov. Beshear’s executive order, KSR reported that there are currently student-athletes with such arrangements at the University of Kentucky, including quarterback Will Levis. It’s unclear if these non-exclusive endorsement deals, which are said to involve Barstool merchandise, are in jeopardy.
“UK’s NIL policy specifically prohibits athletes from promoting and/or endorsing lotteries, casinos, sports wagering facilities, or online equivalents,” according to KSR.
Beshear’s executive order doesn’t mention gambling, but lists alcohol and tobacco products as the kinds of endorsements that could be deemed “incompatible or detrimental to the image, purpose, or stated mission” of a university or college in the state.
It’s worth noting that the Barstool brand, through founder Dave Portnoy, has also promoted so-called meme stock trading and cryptocurrency speculation. Portnoy didn’t immediately react to the news about Louisville, which is significant given his prolific social media use. But an affiliated Barstool account insinuated that there was hypocrisy in the decision because of past recruiting scandals.
Letting Rick Pitino order strippers for recruits✔️
Letting college athletes get endorsed by a brand❌
— Barstool Texas A&M (@BarstoolTexasAM) August 10, 2021