Dave Portnoy Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Last November, Insider (then known as Business Insider) ran a piece from Julia Black titled “‘I was literally screaming in pain’; Young women say they met Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy for sex and it turned violent and humiliating.” That piece had several anonymous women accuse Portnoy of sexual misconduct, including choking and filming them without consent. Portnoy and Barstool CEO Erika Nardini both pushed back on that piece publicly.

In February, Insider published a follow-up report from Black and Melkorka Licea. That piece saw three more women accuse Portnoy, including with claims that he filmed their sexual encounters without consent, that he sent them unsolicited videos of him having sex with other women, and that he broke one woman’s rib during a sexual encounter. After that second report, Portnoy (seen above at a fight announcement in June 2021) filed a lawsuit naming Black, Licea, Insider, Insider co-founder and CEO Henry Blodget, and Insider global editor-in-chief Nicholas Carlson, and citing “willful and unlawful defamation and privacy rights violations.” That lawsuit has now been dismissed, with the judge citing Portnoy’s failure to prove the “actual malice” standard required for public figures in U.S. defamation cases, as Insider’s Jacob Shamsian relayed in a Twitter thread Monday:

A different part of the claim relayed by Adam Klasfield of Law and Crime News illustrates another hurdle for Portnoy’s claim of actual malice. That’s about Insider requesting an interview with him, seeking his comment pre-publication, including his denials, and linking to his press conference and his lawyer’s full denial letter.

There are two distinct claims here, defamation and invasion of privacy. As noted above, defamation has the very high “actual malice” bar to meet for a public figure, and Portnoy doesn’t dispute that he’s a public figure here. Invasion of privacy can be cited even by a public figure, though, and that was the case in Hulk Hogan’s eventuallysuccessful lawsuit against Gawker. But a key difference from that case is that Gawker published a video of Hogan having sex, whereas Insider published only accounts and text messages/direct messages, and the judge’s ruling here (in that final tweet from Shamsian, expandable here) found that “In short, plaintiff had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the text and social media messages published by Insider.”

This is a district court ruling, so there is the potential for Portnoy to appeal to a higher court. If not, this particular legal action will end here. We’ll see if anything further comes of the Portnoy-Insider situation, in court or outside of it.

[Jacob Shamsian on Twitter; photo from Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.