MY THOUGHTS ON BEN MINTZ FIRING
Ben Mintz was fired from Barstool Sports. He was on air and used an offensive racial expletive during his live broadcast. Here’s what I think about that decision and punishment.
Ben Minz was fired from his job this week. Who is Ben Minz; why was he fired; and what makes this case interesting is the subject of today’s column.
Even if you’re not interested in sports gambling or are connected to media, this story comes as an alarming cautionary tale. I’m not sure exactly how to react, other than writing this, offering my support, and expressing concerns about what a bad precedent this sets. I’d like to rally in support of my friend who was fired by a popular media company for an obvious and admitted on-air mistake. However, given the hypersensitivity of social media and the corporatized-everything landscape, this is probably a done deal.
The short version of what happened is as follows:
On Wednesday, Ben Mintz was fired from Barstool Sports. He was on air and used an offensive racial expletive during his live broadcast. I’ll explain more in a moment.
A Disclaimer: I’ve known Ben Mintz for 15 years. We first met in New Orleans and hung out together so many times in the Quarter that I’ve lost count. Last year in New York, I saw Ben again and we spent some time together in Midtown. Watching Ben become popular, I was so proud of his success, which was so well deserved. He worked hard and made his way up from local radio onto a national media platform. He now lives in Northern New Jersey and commutes into NYC when he’s not on the road covering sports. He’s even been in some of my videos (SEE HERE).
Ben is a dynamo of a personality. That’s why he was picked to do videos. The best way to describe him is a Southern-good-old-boy sports fanatic. He’s funny. He’s also intensely smart (off camera), which is sometimes hidden by his accent and the way he carries himself. Ben is also a successful poker player, a winning sports bettor, and few people I’ve met know the local restaurant scene better than “Mintzky.” Yeah, I’m biased because he’s my friend, but I’d still be a fan even if I didn’t know him. On a more personal note, Ben also quit drinking a few years ago, dropped 80 pounds, and now runs and competes in 10K races. Impressive.
So, I watched with envy as Ben went from a radio show in Shreveport, Louisiana to the bright lights of the big city. In recent years, Ben has been dispatched by Barstool Sports to cover lots of SEC action, NFL games in the South, and other sports.
Recently, Ben was on air and did a short rap song as part of his act. I know, sounds crazy — that’s Ben. In the lyrics, there’s a word that’s become toxic. The word is “nigger” (see more below). Ben clearly meant no harm and simply repeated the actual song lyric, which (whether we like or approve) is the original work of the artist. Seconds after blurting out the word, Ben caught himself and apologized. This was an obvious case of being caught up in the heat of the moment, doing something deemed as offensive, immediately taking responsibility, and then apologizing. The “infraction” should have been forgotten instantly.
Well, that’s not the case when large corporations are involved. Penn Entertainment (formally Penn National Gaming) now owns Barstool Sports. The company big shots demanded Ben Mintz be fired. Oh, the irony. The perplexing thing about all this is that Barstool Sports admittedly has built its own reputation as being a sort of Maxim Magazine of sports — often misogynistic, constantly in your face, and deliberately disruptive. Many of their personalities seem more like shock jocks than sports journalists. Calling out Ben within this long-established company climate of firebombing civility seemed not only blatantly wrong but also preposterously hypocritical.
I’m not a fan of Barstool Sports, and from what I know of the former CEO of that company, a man named David Portnoy, he’s not someone I’d agree with on many things. However, to Portnoy’s credit, he defended Ben Mintz and tried to save his job. Unfortunately, his efforts were not enough. Then yesterday, Portnoy hosted an “Emergency Press Conference” on Twitter to express his dissatisfaction with the company’s decision. But since he sold full control of the company over to Penn Entertainment earlier this year, he no longer makes that decision, which he explained in the six-minute video. Kudos to Portnoy for doing an excellent job describing what happened in the case.
Emergency Press Conference – Ben Mintz Has Left the Building pic.twitter.com/31faJrI6Op
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) May 3, 2023
The Ben Mintz firing is wrong on so many counts, it’s hard to know where to begin. First, he merely quoted (sang) from a song. Those were not his word(s); they were popular lyrics. Second, Mintz caught himself on air and immediately walked back the infraction. He apologized for it. Third, there’s not a racially insensitive nor a hurtful bone in Ben’s entire body, and I’ve been with him many times in social situations. If anything, Ben is a very progressive person (politically speaking). He’s just the opposite of a bigot, and even champions causes that would surprise you. I won’t disclose specifics out of respect for Ben’s privacy and his beliefs. But most people probably don’t know that about Ben and broadly stereotype him otherwise. If he wasn’t a Southerner and didn’t speak with such a thick accent, I’m not sure he would have gotten the axe. But hey, that’s another issue.
It’s even more bizarre that the giant corporation making this decision, citing “Penn’s business deals and regulators” potentially being jeopardized in states where they operate as the primary cause of the firing. Huh? A record company (also a corporation) recorded, released, and promoted that song with those lyrics. Why then would it be a firable offense to quote those precise lyrics (singing) on air, yet it’s somehow acceptable and even encouraged in another form of entertainment?
Ben will certainly land on his feet someplace else. He’s too talented and way too funny not to be in front of a microphone and a camera somewhere. I wish him well. However, what’s left behind is a culture of mass fear, where even an honest, unintentional, spontaneous mistake can destroy someone’s career. Given this story has now been widely reported elsewhere, Ben is now probably best known as the white guy who used the N-Word. Well, that’s just wrong.
More of us need to stand up. This is especially true for writers and journalists, including those who work in sports. if it can happen to Ben, it can happen to just about anyone.
Note: In my writings and on this site, no words are off-limits. I refuse to go along with literary euphemisms. For instance, I used the word here in this article years ago, which got about 500,000 hits and sparked a firestorm. READ THE ARTICLE HERE: THUG = NIGGER: THE RICHARD SHERMAN INTERVIEW