Nearly three years after actor Michael Rapaport sued Barstool Sports for defamation and a breach of contract, a decision has been reached. Well, partly.
On Monday, U.S. District Court District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald dismissed Rapaport’s defamation claim, saying (via TheWrap) that “A close review of the challenged statements in context reveals that they would not have been ‘understood by a reasonable [audience] as assertions of fact that were proffered for their accuracy.'”
According to Buchwald, anyone even remotely familiar with Barstool’s content would recognize that the statements Rapaport challenged, in addition to a t-shirt depicting the actor with a red herpes sore underneath his lip, were overly exaggerated in their profanity and insults.
“The statements were largely laden with epithets, vulgarities, hyperbole, and non-literal language and imagery; delivered in the midst of a public and very acrimonious dispute between the Barstool Defendants and Rapaport that would have been obvious to even the most casual observer; and published on social media, blogs, and sports talk radio, which are all platforms where audiences reasonably anticipate hearing opinionated statements.”
In his original lawsuit, Rapaport claimed that Barstool, founder Dave Portnoy, and personalities Adam Smith, Kevin Clancy, and Eric Nathan waged a “campaign to discredit” him after he was fired, intending to embarrass him and claim he had herpes. Rapaport also wanted legal documents to make it clear that he did not have herpes.
Remember the lawsuit Michael Rapaport filed against Barstool & @stoolpresidente?
The Stoolies picked up some pre-trial wins today.
Rapaport's claims of fraud & defamation have been shot down.
This is my favorite part of the 64-page opinion. pic.twitter.com/BKzysLPn6F
— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) March 30, 2021
However, the breach of contract claim against Barstool will move forward to trial. In the suit, Rapaport alleged that his contract with the company entitled him to $200,000 for “rant” videos posted online and $400,000 for a podcast.
Additionally, Rapaport claims that Barstool promised to make “good faith efforts” in getting the actor a weekly radio or video show, which would have guaranteed him $375,000. According to the suit, the company never followed through on those assurances.
if you call yourself a fucking stoolie for real, you've already lost in life
— MichaelRapaport (@MichaelRapaport) February 18, 2018
Barstool fired Rapaport in February 2018 after he alleged Smith used steroids to prepare for a Rough N’ Rowdy boxing match and insulted diehard fans of the website and its personalities by saying their support showed they’ve “already lost in life.”
Rapaport claims that he was fired “without cause or justification,” while Barstool maintains the company was within its rights to terminate the actor for insulting its audience. The outcome of that dispute will now apparently be determined by a jury.