Shares of Penn National Gaming fell more than 20% Thursday, after the publication of an article in which several women alleged that they had “violent and humiliating” sexual encounters with Dave Portnoy, president of Barstool Sports. Penn National, which operates casinos, racetracks and online sports betting, is a significant owner in Barstool.
In a nearly 4,000-word Insider story, three women said they had sex with Portnoy and that the encounters “turned into frightening and humiliating experiences that have taken a toll on their mental health.” Two of the women said Portnoy both choked and filmed them without advance permission.
Portnoy responded in a pair of videos posted to Twitter, in which he denied the allegations in the Insider article.
“I’ve never done anything weird with a girl, ever, never anything remotely nonconsensual,” he said in part, calling the Insider report a “hit piece.” He also said, “Cancel culture has been coming for me for a decade. This is just the next iteration.”
In a statement, a Barstool Sports rep said, “We are not in the business of managing our employees’ personal lives, but we have made sure to have specific processes in place that encourage our colleagues to confidentially share any concerns they might have about their work environment. This recent news does not involve any workplace behavior. As a matter of policy, we do not comment on the private lives of our employees, but we take this matter seriously and are monitoring it closely.”
According to the Insider article, one woman texted a friend two days after having sex with Portnoy, saying, “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.” She also told her friend, according to the Insider report, “And it hurt and I was literally screaming in pain… I kept trying to get away and he was like, ‘Stop running away from me. Stop running away from me.’” But despite her protests, Portnoy “just went harder,” according to the woman, as quoted by Insider.
Portnoy, who calls himself “El Presidente,” in the past has made “rape jokes,” according to the Insider report. In July 2020, the article noted, he posted a video that offered women tips for how to “how to slide into a celebrity’s DMs” (meaning his own DMs): “Be very hot. Don’t be ugly. And say this, two words: ‘I fuck.’”
In January 2020, Penn National Gaming paid $163 million for a 36% stake in Barstool Sports, with previous owner the Chernin Group left with the same percentage stake. Portnoy had sold majority control of Barstool to Peter Chernin’s Chernin Group in 2016. In an interview last year, Jon Kaplowitz, head of Penn National’s interactive division, said “we have done our due diligence” and the company is “confident” that Barstool has “the right guardrails in place.”
A rep for Penn National Gaming did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Insider article.
Founded in 2003 as a sports blog, Barstool has diversified its business over the last several years, expanding into podcasts, merchandise and wagering with Barstool Bets, its site for sports betting and gambling entertainment.
Barstool has a sizable fanbase with its brash brand of sports commentary, while critics have targeted the site over past sexist and racist content. In 2020, Portnoy posted a defiant video hitting back at “cancel cops” who resurfaced clips of him using racist language including the N-word in past videos, complaining that they took video from the “comedy site” out of context. “I’m uncancellable,” he said. ESPN in 2017 canceled “Barstool Van Talk,” a late-night comedy/interview show on ESPN2, after just a single episode aired. That came after ESPN correspondent Sam Ponder called out sexist attacks against her by Portnoy and other Barstool staffers.
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