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Barstool Sports Faces Appeal of Comedian’s Defamation Claims

Sept. 23, 2022, 4:09 PM

Actor and comedian Michael Rapaport will ask a federal appeals court to reinstate his defamation claims against Barstool Sports Inc. stemming from his firing by the sports and pop culture blog for insulting its fanbase.

Rapaport filed his notice of appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Thursday, two weeks after he agreed to dismiss his breach of contract claims against Barstool Sports but preserved his right to appeal the defamation claims dismissed by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on March 29, 2021.

Barstool Sports 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 allegedly 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,” according to the court.

Rapaport alleged 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.

Rapaport also alleged that Barstool failed to secure him a radio show on SiriusXM, and didn’t acquire advertisers for its rant videos.

The court, in a June 25, 2021 ruling, declined to resurrect Rapaport’s defamation claims, saying 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.

His fraud claims also failed because they duplicate his breach of contract claims, the court said.

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, notice of appeal 9/22/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com