COMMENT

On the day the New Zealand Breakers played on their biggest stage in franchise history, they also hit a disgraceful new low.

This week, the Breakers received New Zealand basketball's biggest United States marketing opportunity in years, performing creditably against the Phoenix Suns in a NBA pre-season clash in Arizona.

How did the club mark that occasion? By actively promoting the logo of a website which shamelessly posts what many would consider to be homophobic, transphobic, lecherous and downright repulsive content.

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Say hello to the Breakers' new sponsor – Barstool Sports – a company with a history of misogynistic and distasteful comments, and whom the Breakers have gleefully jumped into bed with.

The Barstool logo took pride of place in the middle of the Breakers jersey against the Suns, and it's not a one-off. In the upcoming Australian National Basketball League season, the logo will be emblazoned above the right breast on the Breakers' official jersey, with the parties having signed a uniform deal.

The decision comes under the new Breakers ownership consortium headed by Matt Walsh, which includes the hosts of Barstool's Pardon My Take podcast - Dan Katz, Henry Lockwood, and Eric Sollenberger. Walsh has had a long-running relationship with the website, and regularly interacts with and likes Barstool content on Twitter, including that of Barstool founder Dave Portnoy, who remains the public face of the company despite an endless archive of objectionable behaviour.

While some aspects of Barstool – including the aforementioned podcast – are largely seen as inoffensive, the continued presence of Portnoy as figurehead makes it impossible to completely separate the company from his presence, which includes comments such as "If you're a size 6 and you're wearing skinny jeans you kind of deserve to be raped right?" and "We don't condone rape of any kind at our Blackout Parties. However if a chick passes out that's a grey area though".

Lest you believe that to be a relic of a time gone by, just within the last month, Portnoy has launched a war against reporter Sam Ponder, who he previously called a "f****** slut", saying he wanted to "slowly suffocate" her in an online war. Of reporter Laura Wagner, he wrote that he wanted to "stick my tongue down her throat," just one of many instances which led to several female reporters speaking out in a thorough article detailing how they received abuse and harassment from Portnoy and Barstool's fanbase.

While any association with Barstool would be intrinsically problematic, it's especially galling from the previously pearl-clutching Breakers, who for years have preached their "family values" to anyone that would listen.

When stepping aside as Breakers owner earlier this year after 13 seasons in charge, Paul Blackwell said that Walsh's group were just as committed to maintaining the club's family values.

"We talked a lot about the fit necessary to maintain the core beliefs that the Breakers have grown from – the values and behaviours that are acceptable in our minds and the minds of the fans."

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Apparently, associating with a company such as Barstool is now acceptable to the Breakers organisation and its fans.

They might be right. The Breakers, who declined to comment when queried about the sponsorship deal by the Herald, will surely have considered any negative reaction to the deal, and could have cynically decided that the promotion and money received will far outweigh any blowback.

Additionally, the club was under some financial strain after a season of poor attendances, leaving the new ownership group to make some tough commercial decisions as they looked to reinvigorate the Breakers franchise.

But by bringing Barstool Sports on board, there will be no reinvigoration, because the Breakers have gone plunging back to the dark ages.