Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy has a documented history of grooming young women for violent sexual encounters, according to a new Business Insider report by Julia Black.
While Portnoy is no stranger to reports of misogyny, Black’s reporting details a pattern of sexual predation that one woman referred to as a “traumatic experience,” telling friends that “I felt like I was being raped.”
Black spoke with several women, all using pseudonyms out of concern that Portnoy and fans of Barstool Sports (known as “Stoolies”) would attempt to intimidate and attack them, as is known to happen and is part of Portnoy’s brand. Each woman outlined a similar experience in which they contacted Portnoy through direct messages, engaged in sexually explicit conversations, met him in person, and engaged in sex that turned violent and aggressive without a sense that they were able to say no or stop. (Portnoy disputed this reporting in two videos he posted to Twitter; those can be seen at the bottom of this post.)
— Kate Taylor (@Kate_H_Taylor) November 4, 2021
“Insider spoke with more than two dozen people with direct experience with Portnoy and Barstool, including eight current or former employees,” said Black. “Some women, as young as 19 who had no professional connection to Portnoy, recounted having sexually explicit online exchanges with him. Three of these women said they had sex with Portnoy, now 44, and that the encounters turned into frightening and humiliating experiences that have taken a toll on their mental health. Two, including Madison, said Portnoy both choked and filmed them without advance permission; another, who has had, said she was suicidal after the two had sex.”
Portnoy has built an empire at Barstool based on the “boys will be boys” mantra writ large. Even as the company brought on a female CEO and expanded its staff to include more female talent, an unapologetic thread of misogyny and fratboy humor has always led their content and strategy. Portnoy is the ring leader, one writing in a since-deleted defense of a convicted rapist that, “I never condone rape, but if you’re a size six and you’re wearing skinny jeans, you kind of deserve to be raped.” And while that comment is just the tip of the iceberg, Barstool has thrived, venturing into various media verticals (albeit not always for long), aligning itself with major sports (albeit not with the best results), attracting big sponsors, working with name talent (at least for a while), and having Penn National Gaming purchase a 36% stake in the company.
Black reached out to Penn National and Barstool CEO Erika Nardini for comment on the story but did not receive any. A Barstool Sports’ attorney did respond, saying that the women’s accusations “embody half-truths, are highly misleading, lack appropriate context, and appear to have been provided to you by individuals whose motivations and trustworthiness should at least have been fully vetted.”
As detailed in the story, one of the big aspects of Portnoy’s ability to survive unscathed from controversial statements or articles such as this one is the system of intimidation that has built up around him. As detailed by one of the women in the article, who said she was “kind of scared” while having sex with Portnoy and later hospitalized after becoming suicidal, even going to the police felt like it wouldn’t be worth it.
“I knew he would drag me through the mud,” the young woman said of her mother’s desire to pursue legal action against Portnoy.
If there’s any reason to think Portnoy’s unchecked behavior might not go on forever, it’s the fact that Penn National is a publicly-traded company. Following the publishing of the Business Insider article, Penn’s stock price, which was already down because of a poor earnings call and discussion that they won’t make the cut for betting in New York, dipped even further.
Penn Stock was down roughly 10 percent on earnings miss. Loss has since doubled since Business Insider Portnoy story. pic.twitter.com/ZLgPmEMNqH
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) November 4, 2021
It’s hard to say how much of an impact this story has on the financial status of Penn (some sites are citing it for the drop, but that’s not universal). But even if Thursday’s article feels like the same kind of story that people have been hearing about Portnoy for years, the addition of angry stockholders to the mix could change the equation. It’s a sad state of affairs that the reports, allegations, and Portnoy’s own words don’t seem to be enough to invite any kind of change, but critics of Barstool will take whatever they can get.
Portnoy responded to the article with a two-part 12-minute video response on social media, explaining his side of the story. Portnoy says that “I’ve never done anything weird with a girl ever, never anything remotely non-consensual.” He also cited cancel culture as a reason for why the Business Insider article was being written.
My Response To The Business Insider Hit Piece That Has Been 8 Months In The Making (Part 1/2) pic.twitter.com/gwrO07uIEE
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) November 4, 2021
My Response To The Business Insider Hit Piece That Has Been 8 Months In The Making (Part 2/2) pic.twitter.com/lkKJi9i4sb
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) November 4, 2021
Portnoy said that he figured out who “Madison” is in the article based on his own memories and that “at no point was it not 100% consensual. At no point did she ask me to stop. It was totally normal fine.”
He also discussed “Allison,” who described being suicidal after her sexual encounter with Portnoy. He showed direct messages from the woman that he feels discount her allegations and denies them outright. He also says that no charges have ever been filed “unless I’m provoking right now.”
Portnoy added that the problem is that he’s “too loose and authentic” and the “woke cancel culture wants to cancel me.”