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Barstool Sports’ Ben Mintz was wrongfully fired for his mistake


He’s gone. 

Ben “Mintzy” Mintz is no longer employed by Barstool Sports. And our national nightmare is over, right?

If you don’t know the name, Mintz is a Barstool Sports personality who, though sober, could be a plausible stand-in for John Blutarsky in an “Animal House” remake.

He’s a goofy but endearing overgrown Southern frat boy.

This week, he made headlines after livestreaming his Barstool show, “Wake up Mintzy,” in which he was reading the lyrics to a Bone Thugs-N-Harmony hit off his phone. He rapped the N-word, which was in the song.

As the word left his mouth, he turned pale. And it sunk in that he had just, to borrow from “Kingpin,” pulled a Munson, which is essentially having the world in the palm of your hands and blowing it.

The word is despicable and gross and should not be used.

Mintz clearly agreed and apologized profusely that day via Twitter: “This morning, I made an unforgivable mistake slipping on air while reading a song lyric. I meant no harm & have never felt worse about anything,” he wrote, adding that he was “truly sorry & ashamed.”

Ben “Mintzy” Mintz (left) poses with Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy.
Barstool Sports

The whole debacle set off a firestorm within the halls of Barstool Sports, which is no longer an independent pirate ship. In February, it was fully acquired by Penn Gaming in a lucrative deal worth a total of $551 million, and together, they launched Barstool Sportsbook. The company was now fully under the thumb of Penn, which is beholden to fickle government regulators who have the power to pull gambling licenses.

In a video posted to Twitter, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy said he and CEO Erika Nardini pleaded with Penn to save Mintz’s job. To no avail.

It also led to a huge uproar among “Stoolies,” who felt that Barstool — which was built on the foundational principle of bucking cancel culture — had cowered to the forces of political correctness.

I can sympathize with the company’s unique situation, and their need to look out for their fiscal health.

But the whole debate brought up a larger cultural conversation about intent and context. And why they should matter.


Ben Mintz ready to go on camera.
Ben Mintz ready to go on camera.
YouTube

If Mintzy was reading lyrics he had written himself, or livestreaming from his bunker kitted out in Nazi or KKK regalia, give him the boot. But no one uncovered a treasure trove of racists tweets. He’s not an irredeemable monster.

The question of intent came up during the 2021 saga of New York Times reporter Donald McNeil, a white reporter who, after 45 years, resigned under pressure from staff because he used the N-word on a 2019 trip to Peru with a group of high school students. In his retelling, he was asked “by a student whether I thought a classmate of hers should have been suspended for a video she had made as a 12-year-old in which she used a racial slur.”

While clarifying details, he said he repeated the actual word. The details didn’t matter to Times bosses, who sent out a memo saying, “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.”

But as Reason magazine pointed out, just a few months later, the paper published an essay, “How the N-Word Became Unsayable,” by linguist John McWhorter. It used the word 34 times. Editors defended using the word because of McWhorter’s subject.

“In other words, intent matters after all,” Reason wrote.


Dave Portnoy tried to fight to keep Mintz on staff.
Dave Portnoy advocated for keeping Mintz on staff.
Getty Images

It also reminded me of Mississippi newscaster Barbie Bassett, who was canned in March for using a popular Snoop Dogg phrase that is apparently a stand-in for the N-word. Hey, you learn something new every day.

The move to give her the boot was blasted by Charlamagne tha God and Whoopi Goldberg, who said it’s “hard to keep up.”

Indeed. Every day, another word is added to the list considered “slurs” and institutions are increasingly implementing zero-tolerance policies around language. Life is becoming a minefield for anyone, regardless of background and race.

People make mistakes and grace should be given, if warranted. We shouldn’t purge good people over honest mistakes. It only leads to a more self-censored, frightened society.

And is the world a better place because Mintzy is now unemployed? I’d say no.




This story originally appeared on NYPost

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