The National Women's Hockey League criticized Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini on Tuesday, saying in a statement that women's hockey fans and journalists "could be targeted or harassed on social media" after they were called out in a video Nardini released.
Nardini has promoted the NWHL through Barstool Sports, including having Metropolitan Riveters players Kelly Babstock and Rebecca Russo on her Token CEO podcast. But her support of the league has come under fire from some in the women's hockey community because of documented incidents of misogyny, racism and harassment in Barstool Sports' history.
Nardini responded to that outrage on Monday by posting a video dedicated to "the haters" that featured the names and photos of her critics from their social media accounts, while touting her own advocacy for the sport and her desire to one day purchase an NWHL franchise.
The video was met with more outrage, but this time Nardini's critics were joined by several NWHL players. The first player to speak out was Riveters rookie Saroya Tinker, one of the league's few players of color, who posted a message on Twitter.
"There is no circumstance where it would be acceptable to call out many of the reporters, staff members and fans who have given so much to women's hockey, especially knowing that these people could be targeted or harassed on social media," NWHL commissioner Tyler Tumminia said in a statement. "I'm concerned about the impact of the video and the aftermath of it on members of the NWHL family. Together, we will do everything we can to work through it with open communication and transparency."
Nardini said in a subsequent video produced by Barstool on Tuesday that she ran the clip addressing her critics past "people close to the NWHL," despite her own reservations about posting it.
"What the video had was all the journalists and bloggers who don't like Barstool ... I called them out. I guess I'm not supposed to do that because I, as a woman, can be called out and I'm supposed to take it. This morning, I got told I should apologize for it, which is bulls---," she said in the video.
Despite her stated interest, the NWHL told ESPN that there has never been a formal application for team ownership from Nardini or Barstool Sports, or any financial arrangement between them and the league. When asked in her video about the future of those ownership prospects, Nardini said, "I don't know if they'll let me buy a team," before pondering if she should start her own women's league.
Tumminia appeared to formalize that sentiment in her statement.
"Like every professional sports league, the NWHL has a formal application and review process for prospective owners and this will continue to be strictly adhered to," she said. "We have received inquiries from several groups interested in purchasing clubs, but the NWHL will not sell a club to anybody who is not fully supportive of this League's values."
The NWHL is a professional women's hockey league founded in 2015. It added its sixth franchise, the Toronto Six, for the 2021 season.