In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations leveled against Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy, some Philadelphia business owners who were beneficiaries of a fund Portnoy set up to help struggling businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic were reckoning with the shocking claims.
In an article published by Business Insider on Thursday, two women accused Portnoy of violent sexual behavior, and many former and current employees alleged Portnoy also cultivated a workplace environment of racism, sexism, and misogyny. One of the women — who were given pseudonyms to protect them from Portnoy’s rabid and often retaliatory fanbase — said she became suicidal after one sexual encounter with Portnoy in his Nantucket home.
“I just felt very preyed on,” the woman told Insider.
The article goes on to detail a workplace environment of crude, racist, sexist and misogynistic behavior by Portnoy. Much of the brash, loud, and “anti-woke” persona is what Portnoy puts on full display in his podcasts and public appearances, and is what has built him a fanbase of supporters who will often go after any critics or detractors, sometimes relentlessly.
In a two-part video posted on Twitter on Thursday, Portnoy called the Insider report a “hit piece” that painted him as a “sexual deviant.” Portnoy denied any nonconsensual behavior with sexual partners, including the two women who allege he was violent with them.
“I know I’ve never done anything weird with a girl, ever,” Portnoy said. “Never anything remotely nonconsensual.”
Portnoy is popular for his pizza reviews, where he goes to renowned shops across the country and reviews their pies. A good review from Portnoy often translates into a sharp increase in business, with many pizza shops touting their rating on their websites and social media.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Portnoy also created the Barstool Fund for struggling local businesses across the country.
Last year, casino and racetrack operator Penn National Gaming purchased a 36% stake in Barstool Sports for about $163 million. The Wyomissing-based Penn National planned to increase its ownership to about 50% after three years with a further investment of about $62 million, the companies previously announced.
The companies have said Penn National would be Barstool Sports’ exclusive gaming partner for as long as 40 years. The deal valued Barstool Sports at about $450 million.
The acquisition brought Portnoy and much of his crew to Philadelphia, after they launched their Pennsylvania-based gambling app. As local businesses struggled to deal with the economic fallout of shutdowns meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Portnoy started a fund to help businesses, including those in his new hometown, stay afloat.
According to the Barstool Fund website, more than $41.6 million had been raised and 443 businesses had been supported.
One such business, the Franklintown bar Kite and Key, received Barstool Fund money for four months, allowing them to weather the financial storm. For owner Jim Kirk, the accusations of violent sexual behavior are unverified attacks on Portnoy, who’s helped his and other businesses in a time of need.
“I’m not saying women’s rights shouldn’t be heard and that every accusation shouldn’t be believed,” Kirk said Friday. “I don’t think anyone should be judged until all the facts come out and the legal process is complete. Quite frankly he has always been a target in some people’s eyes. The fact of the matter is he and his organization has done far more good than many want to give him or the organization credit for doing.”
Last fall, Reading Terminal Market launched a GoFundMe to help “keep the lights on,” as starkly lower foot traffic and tourism, and canceled events created a financial crisis for the market. Despite appeals to the public, the market only collected about half of its initial $250,000 goal.
But weeks after the GoFundMe was launched, Penn National Gaming, at the behest of Portnoy, said it would help raise the difference.
On Friday, a spokesperson for Reading Terminal Market responded to the article’s allegations.
“We absolutely condemn any and all sexual misconduct. In regards to the donation made to the Reading Terminal Market Corporation by Penn National Gaming, there were no clauses or conditions tied to the matching campaign.”
In the wake of the allegations, Penn National’s share price dropped more than 20%, a year low, Bloomberg reported. The stock fell 21%, closing at $57.40 on Thursday, effectively eliminating $2.5 billion in market value for the company, according to reports.
Penn National Gaming did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.