If you’re a follower of sports media, then you’re likely familiar with the names Barstool Sports and Dave Portnoy.
Barstool came onto the scene in 2003, branding itself as a brash, edgy alternative to more mainstream outlets.
Fairly or otherwise, the brand quickly became associated with some of the more unseemly aspects of the sports and media worlds.
Whatever the case, Portnoy worked hard to make his name as synonymous with his brand as Hugh Hefner’s was with Playboy, and he’s long reveled in his status as one of the internet’s most controversial troublemakers.
But has his conduct ever crossed the line between deplorable and criminal?
That’s the topic of discussion this week, thanks to a scathing new report from Business Insider that Portnoy has dismissed as an unethical "hit piece."
Rumors of misconduct within the Barstool offices have been circulating for years, but it wasn’t until this week that those vague reports became the subject of a serious journalistic effort.
Insider journalist Julia Black spent eight months digging into Portnoy’s sexual history and speaking with the 44-year-old’s past sex partners.
The article Black published on Thursday contains allegations of aggressive sexual behavior from several women, most notably one who goes by the pseudonym Madison.
Madison says her sexual encounter with Portnoy began consensually, but quickly got out of control as the mogul seemed to revel in demeaning and intimidating her.
"It was so rough I felt like I was being raped he video taped me and spit in my mouth and choked me so hard I couldn’t breathe," Madison says of a sexual encounter with Portnoy that took place in July of 2020.
Just hours after the report went public, Portnoy responded with a lengthy video that was posted to his Twitter page.
He began by bringing his followers up to speed on the Insider piece, explaining that it includes "serious allegations painting me really as a sexual deviant."
From there, Portnoy alleged that the journalist who wrote the piece was working to "fulfill the narrative she had already decided on before she had ever started this article."
"I know cancel culture has been coming for me for a decade, this is just the next iteration but she knew what she wanted to write and she was going to find the narrative to fit it from day one," he added.
Portnoy says that when he first read about the allegations from Madison "absolutely zero idea of who we are talking about."
He eventually pieced together the details, however, and realized that the woman speaking under a pseudonym was one who had visited him at his home in Nantucket.
"I liked her, I thought she was very attractive, pretty, stunning and engaging girl so that’s why she came," he said.
"She came, she flew, we did have pizza, hung out, hooked up—at no point during it, no point, was it not 100 percent consensual. At no point did she ask me to stop. At no point did either of us think something unseemly happened," Portnoy continued.
"There was no weirdness after, it was a totally fine, normal interaction. Sexual 100 percent consensual.
"We just basically disagreed on everything from is it raining or sunny out," Portnoy explained, adding, "that is why she slept on the couch."
"I never talked to her again. I never knew she had any issue. It’s the first I heard of it and, frankly, was stunned to read and hear about it," he said.
"I’m obviously not going to say her name, I don’t want her harassed, but if what she’s telling that she didn’t enjoy the experience is true, I had no idea and that’s horrible and I never want [anyone] to feel that way."
This is not the first time that Barstool has been at the center of allegations of sexual misconduct.
Back in 2017, devoted followers of the site harassed Portnoy’s ex-girlfriend amid allegations that she had cheated on him with her SoulCycle instructor.
Earlier this year, an eerily similar situation developed after it was revealed that married Barstool CEO Erika Nardini had carried on an affair with her squash instructor.
Longtime fans of the never-ending drama surrounding the site likened the situation to an earlier instance of infidelity in which popular Barstool contributor Kevin Clancy admitted to cheating on his pregnant wife.
Obviously, these situations all involve consensual sex, and the allegations against Portnoy are of a very different nature.
But all of these incidents speak to the environment at Barstool, a place where sports journalists frequently put their private lives on display, and sex and sports are forced to uncomfortably co-exist in the Manhattan offices of a major media concern.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Portnoy and his brand — perhaps these allegations will result in lawsuits or criminal charges, perhaps not.
But whatever the case, it seems abundantly clear that the archaic culture at Barstool is in need of a major overhaul.