Barstool Sports Founder Dave Portnoy’s Defamation Lawsuit Gets Dismissed

Posted on: November 9, 2022, 05:02h. 

Last updated on: November 9, 2022, 01:49h.

A news organization won a legal victory this week. That’s after a judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought against the publication and several of its employees by Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy.

Dave Portnoy
Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy at an NBA basketball game in May. His defamation lawsuit against Insider was dismissed this week. (Image: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

In Monday’s 21-page decision, Boston federal Judge F. Dennis Saylor ruled that Portnoy failed to prove Insider had “malice” against him when it reported on his alleged sexual escapades, the New York Post reported.

In an expose starting in 2021, Insider alleged Portnoy engaged in “violent and humiliating” sexcapades with several unnamed young women, the story claimed.

The judge concluded that Insider staff checked the women’s version of events with photos, texts, social media, videos, medical reports, police reports, an Uber receipt, and “statements from at least three friends who saw or spoke with the women soon after their interactions with [the] plaintiff.”

The “defendants’ independent verification of the women’s accounts thus further undercuts an inference of actual malice,” Saylor’s ruling said and Law & Crime, a legal publication, reported. A plaintiff typically needs to prove malice to win in such a court action.

Because Portnoy is a public figure, it also becomes harder to prove defamation and the related claim of invasion of privacy in court.

“Every legal expert said it was an uphill battle,” Portnoy said in a recent Twitter post.

Portnoy didn’t rule out the possibility of appealing Saylor’s ruling.

Malice Claimed

The articles were classified as “hit pieces” by Portnoy, who said the Insider staff had “malicious intent” in the “smear campaign,” according to the lawsuit. The stories were also labeled as “clickbait journalism,” which the lawsuit explained as suggesting “actual criminal wrongdoing on Mr. Portnoy’s part without further explanation.”

Portnoy called the women’s claims “an outright fabrication” and previously said sex was consensual.

The lawsuit stated that the defendants “improperly and knowingly relied upon biased sources who demanded anonymity, all while being in possession of documentary evidence that each source’s story was incredible and unreliable.”

Insider and its staff, additionally, had a “plan to sensationalize a story to drive reader traffic to an internet location where they could then be solicited to subscribe to [the] … tabloid-like Publication,” the suit adds.

The defendants named in the lawsuit were Insider Chief Executive Officer Henry Blodget, reporters Julia Black and Melkorka Licea, and editor Nicholas Carlson.

Articles Linked to Penn Entertainment

Portnoy founded Barstool Sports in 2003. In 2020, Penn National Gaming, now known as Penn Entertainment, paid $163 million for a 36% stake in Barstool Sports. In August, Penn Entertainment acquired the sports website for $387 million.

The suit further claimed the articles were published on a date that coincided with Penn National Gaming’s quarterly earnings announcements.

Saylor said the “fact that defendants published the articles behind a paywall, and that they sought to increase revenue by publishing the stories, does not give rise to an inference of actual malice.”

When reached for initial comment in response to the lawsuit, Insider spokesman Mario Ruiz earlier this year told, “We stand behind our reporting and will defend the case vigorously.”

This week, Black, who was named in the lawsuit, called the judge’s ruling “gratifying” in a tweet.