There is no doubt that mega-popular sports website and media company Barstool Sports has seen its fair share of controversy. From founder Dave Portnoy getting into it with the NFL chairman to staff members on Barstool’s payroll being under fire for exposed infidelity to all the Call Her Daddy drama, it’s safe to say that Barstool Sports is well equipped to handle just about anything that comes their way.
Recently, actor Michael Rapaport filed summary judgment papers in his breach-of-contract and defamation lawsuit against Barstool Sports. In 2017, Michael joined the Barstool team, ready to work on podcasts and video content. However, things quickly went south and Michael’s contract was not renewed. So, why did Barstool Sports fire him? We have all the details below!
Michael Rapaport signed on with Barstool Sports in 2017.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Michael’s deal with Barstool Sports entitled him to $200,000 for video "rants" posted online and $400,000 for a podcast. He also apparently got a big share of revenue and merchandise, plus additional money for other specials, including $40,000 for the production of a video for DraftKings. And he was reportedly promised "good faith efforts” he'd get to host his own show on SiriusXM. However, according to the actor, that opportunity never came.
"I was hired based on my podcast, rants, sports media and social media personality," Michael said. "That's what attracted me to them. There were no provisions from the hiring or courtship. They especially wanted me to be a bombastic 'bad guy' around the Rough N' Rowdy PPV fights for promotion and to attract viewership."
Michael Rapaport sued Barstool for defamation after they did not renew his contract.
That is when things went from bad to worse. Michael alleges that just months into his deal, Barstool made the decision not to renew the relationship. He also claims that Barstool engineered a "coordinated assault" to get out of the existing talent agreement.
"Following BSI’s decision not to retain Mr. Rapaport, BSI employees, personalities and bloggers began a systematic campaign to publicly and privately discredit, disparage, and undermine Mr. Rapaport’s relationship with BSI as well as his credibility as an actor and performer," states an amended complaint.
Barstool capitalized off of the lawsuit — including selling a clown shirt with Michael’s face.
Dave Portnoy and Barstool Sports did not waste any time trying to make money off of the lawsuit with Michael and his team of lawyers. Barstool began selling T-shirts of him with a clown nose and a herpes sore beneath his lower lip. They also published disparaging blog posts, such as one titled: "Michael Rapaport Is A Fraudulent Sack Of Sh**."
As for any question of remorse from Barstool’s leader, you can forget about it. "Barstool’s founder, Defendant Portnoy, admits to actual malice, admitting not only that Defendants had no basis to make these false statements, but that they made them to ruin Mr. Rapaport’s career, and to embarrass and humiliate him," states a new summary judgment motion.
"He also admits that, even if he knew the statements to be false, he would not apologize to Mr. Rapaport or retract the statements. When questioned publicly about the truth of these statements, Defendants went a step further and stated that the statements they made about Mr. Rapaport were true: 'That’s all we spit. Truth and justice baby. Truth and justice.'"
Barstool Sports claims Michael Rapaport violated a morals clause.
According to court documents, Barstool argues that Michael's defamation suit is useless considering he is what they call "defamation-proof.” The company alleges that he had a poor reputation before they fired him. Barstool also says he is "well known for having a criminal background" (referencing an incident where, after an actress broke up with him, he called her 21 times, showed up at her apartment at 1 a.m., and eventually got arrested).
Barstool also maintains that his talent agreement barred him from making statements that would bring the company into disrepute — and that he allegedly violated such provisions by starting his own feuds with fellow employees and attacking fans of the company's content (aka "stoolies"). For example, in one tweet, Rapaport wrote, "[I]f you call yourself a f***ing stoolie for real, you’ve already lost in life.”
On March 30, 2021, Michael's clown shirt defamation case against Barstool Sports was struck down. According to the New York Post, U.S. Southern District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, in a 64-page opinion, wrote that a “reasonable audience” could conclude the image was exaggerated. “While hardly flattering to Rapaport, this image standing alone is not actionable because a reasonable audience would not understand the shirt to be asserting as a fact that Rapaport has herpes,” Buchwald’s ruling read.
While the defamation suit is now dropped, the breach-of-contract suit filed against Barstool Sports Inc will continue to trial.