Barstool Sports Inc. trimmed some of comedian Michael Rapaport’s claims stemming from its termination of his contract to produce a podcast and from its related allegedly profanity-laced defamatory remarks, after the Southern District of New York found the comments aren’t actionable under New York law.
The defamation claims fail because a reasonable reader wouldn’t have believed that the challenged statements, “largely laden with epithets, vulgarities, hyperbole, and non-literal language and imagery,” were conveying facts about Rapaport, the court said.
Rapaport’s fraud claims also fail because they duplicate his breach of contract claims, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said.
But Rapaport’s breach of contract claims will proceed to trial. The court denied his motion for summary judgment on those counts, finding there are disputed issues that will have to be resolved by a jury.
The sports & pop culture blog terminated Rapaport in February 2018 after he tweeted, in response to a heckler, “if you call yourself a f——— stoolie for real, you’ve already lost in life.” Barstool announced on Twitter that it fired Rapaport for insulting its “entire f——— fanbase.”
In the following months, Barstool published “dozens of tweets, blog posts, online articles, videos, podcasts, and radio shows that accused Rapaport of being racist, a fraud, a hack, a wannabe, and a liar, having herpes, and stalking and beating his former girlfriend,” the court said.
Rapaport alleges that Barstool terminated the podcast agreement improperly and without cause, failed to pay him his final $200,000 installment payment under the contract, and breached its obligation to pay him 60% of revenues from his “rant videos,” in which he offered unfiltered views on politics, sports and popular culture.
But a jury will need to decide whether he was fired for cause and, if so, the amount of damages, the court said.
Rapaport also alleges that Barstool failed to secure him a radio show on SiriusXM, and didn’t acquire advertisers for its rant videos. These claims too must be weighed by a jury, the court said.
Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald issued the opinion.
King & Ballow represents Rapaport. Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP, and Herrick Feinstein LLP represent Barstool Sports.
The case is Rapaport v. Barstool Sports Inc., S.D.N.Y., No. 18-cv-08783, 3/29/21.