A federal judge in New York has dismissed a lawsuit brought by comedian-turned-podcast host Michael Rapaport against Barstool Sports. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald tossed out the suit brought by Rapaport in 2018 alleging breach of contract. She also tossed a countersuit filed by Barstool alleging the same. The judge did leave open the appeal door for Rapaport related to defamation claims included in his original suit. The one-time CBS Radio podcaster who sought a radio show has now walked through it, asking the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan to revive his claim.
The Bromance That Didn’t Last
Rapaport was lured away from CBS Radio and signed in 2017 to host the Rant podcast for Barstool after having become a frequent voice on sports radio and podcasts, including his own I Am Rapaport: Stereo Podcast. Barstool agreed to pay him $400,000 to produce the podcast, as well as a guarantee of $200,000 in so-called “revenue splits” tied to the revenue brought in from the show.
The contract (see it HERE) also said that Barstool would make an effort to secure Rapaport a five-day-a-week show on either broadcast or satellite radio. If that came through, the host would have been in line for another $375,000.
But the bromance didn’t last long and just months into the one-year contract, Rapaport claims his former employer decided he “did not fit with Barstool” and that it “decided to declare war on him for the purpose of generating publicity and viewers to its site.” He said that included using their platform to allege Rapaport “was a racist, had beaten his ex-girlfriend ‘black and blue,’ was a ‘fraud’ and has ‘herpes,’” to embarrass and humiliate him. Barstool also sold a t-shirt with a picture of Rapaport that purported to show him suffering from herpes and posted stories on its website with headlines that blared “Michael Rapaport Is A Fraudulent Sack Of Shit” and “Sad Story: D List Actor With A Slight STD Problem Traps Plane Of Innocent Travelers Inside.”
Rapaport said the campaign hurt his podcast ratings, which went from 4.5 stars to 1.5 stars, and made it difficult to attract sponsors. He blames Barstool hosts telling their fans to “torpedo” his ratings and reviews. He also alleges Barstool stopped pursuing a potential radio show for him, including on its own SiriusXM channel. Ultimately, Rapaport was fired by Portnoy in February 2018 with a Sunday morning Twitter post from bed. Rapaport responded by filing a lawsuit in November 2018 for breach of contract and defamation.
“This was a literal declaration of war,” Rapaport said in a March 2020 court filing. It said that when Rapaport was still at the company, he approached Portnoy about the campaign against him, and that he was told Portnoy and the other defendants claimed they were true. “These actions have irrevocably tarnished Mr. Rapaport’s reputation and that of his podcast and have caused him great personal suffering,” the motion for summary judgement said.
The ‘King of Trash Talk’
Barstool and Rapaport spent months in settlement talks, culminating in a joint request to the judge in September that each of their breach of contract suits be dismissed. The agreement also called for an end to the claims against Barstool and its staffers, while allowing Rapaport to continue to pursue his defamation claims against the company.
Barstool has shown no signs of walking back its allegedly defamatory statements. It wrote in a court filing that Rapaport “had a reputation for having herpes before any of the allegedly defamatory statements were made” and it filled its court filing with a number of racist, sexist and homophobic comments and images it claims he has made or posted on social media through the years. It also repeated claims that Rapaport had previously pled guilty to aggravated assault of his ex-girlfriend.
“Rapaport has a bad reputation that is not capable of further tarnishment,” Barstool said in its filing. “Rapaport also has a long history of publicly making racist, sexist and otherwise offensive comments. Rapaport cannot seriously dispute that this is his reputation: He refers to himself as the ‘King of Trash Talk’ and promotes his podcast by stating that he is sharing ‘offensive’ takes.”
Barstool has argued that because of Rapaport’s public persona, his defamation suit should be held to the stricter “actual malice” standard, which requires that defendants made the allegedly defamatory statements with knowledge they were false or had reckless disregard for their truth.
Now Indie Podcast
Even without Barstool, Rapaport has continued to release his I Am Rapaport: Stereo Podcast as an indie show, working with the production company DBpodcasts. He is closing in on a thousand episodes, with No. 985 released last week.