On Monday, a judge ruled in favour of actor-podcaster Michael Rapaport and against Barstool Sports, dismissing Rapaport’s defamation claim against the renowned sports website but allowing his breach of contract claim to proceed forward.
Rapaport Filed Suit Against Barstool Sports Inc.
David Portnoy (the company’s creator), and the site’s characters Adam Smith, Kevin Clancy, and Eric Nathan in September 2018. He alleged that the corporation owes him money from their eight-month working connection and that the company and its talent defamed him by making up allegations that the actor has herpes.
Since 2017, Rapaport has been doing podcasts and videos called “rants” for Barstool. In February of 2018, Portnoy publicly terminated him “without cause or justification,” and Rapaport claims that Barstool has refused to pay him the remaining guaranteed payments owed to him under his talent agreement.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald issued an order dismissing Rapaport’s defamation claim, writing: “A close review of the challenged statements in context reveals that they would not have been ‘understood by a reasonable [audience] as assertions of fact that were proffered for their accuracy. Instead, it seems clear that the challenged remarks represent the (often blatantly biassed) perspectives of the Barstool Defendants, given the context in which they appear.
The judge also dismissed Rapaport’s claims that Barstool had broken the law by selling a shirt depicting him as a clown with a scarlet herpes sore beneath his lip. She wrote that while the shirt was “hardly flattering to Rapaport,” it was not illegal since a reasonable audience would not take it to mean that Rapaport has herpes.
When Rapaport insulted Barstool supporters in tweets, the company argued it was within its rights to fire him. Whether the evidence demonstrates that Rapaport’s tweet actually brought Barstool into public disrepute and thus permitted Barstool to immediately terminate the Talent Agreement is a disputed issue of material fact that must be resolved by a jury following trial,” the judge wrote in dismissing the claim at this time.