It’s been more than three years since Sofia Franklyn and Alex Cooper disbanded the original iteration of the popular “Call Her Daddy” podcast that appeared under Barstool Sports’ umbrella. The dramatic split between the two co-hosts, who were best friends and roommates, divided fans of the show and sparked major backlash online. At the time, Cooper and Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy revealed certain details of how and why the “Call Her Daddy” deal fell apart, placing most of the blame on Franklyn and publicly aligning against her. The narrative was that Franklyn was shopping the podcast around to other media companies with her then-boyfriend, HBO Sports executive vice president Peter Nelson, and Portnoy went as far as calling the women “unprofessional, disloyal, and greedy” amidst the renegotiations.
Cooper ultimately wanted to stick with Barstool, putting the two women at odds and leading to the demise of their podcast and friendship. She continued to record the podcast under Barstool until June 2021, when she took “Call Her Daddy” to Spotify for a $60 million three-year deal.
On a professional and a personal level, it was a difficult time for Franklyn, she told Rolling Stone in an extensive sit-down interview, having to mourn the loss of both the business and brand she helped build as well as her relationship with Cooper, someone she said she thought was going to stand by her on her wedding day and be the godmother to her children. At the height of the internet vitriol against Franklyn, she left her shared New York City apartment with Cooper to stay with family in Utah, take a break from the public eye, and contemplate what was next for her.
“When everything went down, I actually was silent. That’s what I wanted. But people with opposing views were so vocal on so many different platforms that were so ginormous, and I think even when I came back and kind of spoke my piece, there were pieces missing. I couldn’t go there,” Franklyn told Rolling Stone. “It was my choice to stay silent but in a roundabout way, I was a little bit silenced. I’ve never thought about that, but I think that was definitely there.”
Months after leaving Barstool, Franklyn chose to stick with what she knew and launched her own podcast, “Sofia with an F.” The 30-year-old has used her platform to continue speaking explicitly about sex and relationships as well as interview celebrities including Vanderpump Rules cast members Katie Maloney and Lala Kent, and even recently spoke with the infamous Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland.
All these years later, Franklyn reflected that the hardships she experienced in 2020 helped her grow, gain more insight into the entertainment business, and learn important lessons about navigating work contracts as a woman in a male-dominated industry and world.
“It’s all a part of my story,” Franklyn said.
When Franklyn and Cooper were approached to bring their podcast to Barstool in 2018, Franklyn said she was excited at the opportunity but she also wasn’t too familiar with Barstool as a company or its reputation. She was just hyped to be able to leave her job in finance where she said she was making an annual salary of $40,000 to podcast full-time, not being fully aware of what working for Barstool would entail or represent, which in retrospect she said was “probably a little naïve.”
“I don’t regret it,” Franklyn said. “But I definitely could have researched [more].”
Franklyn said they initially recorded the podcast in Barstool’s New York City office “for the first few months” then mostly recorded from home in their shared apartment. There were two elements of what Franklyn described as “culture shock” she had to navigate when she started podcasting for Barstool: First, leaving her traditional, nine-to-five job and transitioning into working in the field of entertainment full-time.
“Growing up in Utah, I didn’t know that working in entertainment was even an avenue or a possibility,” she said. “I realized, ‘I can just act like a lunatic on camera and receive a paycheck?’”
The other form of culture shock, she said, was being a woman working in a predominantly male space that catered toward a mostly male audience.
“I am not a big sports girl… it’s a very bro-ish, kind of fraternity vibe,” Franklyn said. “I think it was, you know, ten dudes to one girl or probably a crazier ratio. It was maybe a little bit intimidating in the beginning stages, but I think for some reason I feel very comfortable around guys. I didn’t have a dad growing up and I think I grew up being like, ‘These people are not shit, men are not shit, you cannot trust them,’ and for some reason that manifested in me feeling very comfortable [with men because] I have nothing to lose from them.”
“Call Her Daddy” reached crazy heights of success, accumulating a loyal fanbase of millions of listeners who were committed to tuning in and listening to Franklyn and Cooper discuss dating, relationships, sex, friendship, pop culture news, and other drama on the internet, making for a meta experience when their podcast was at the center of the news cycle. In May 2020, The New York Times reported that under Barstool Sports, “Call Her Daddy” was one of the top 20 most popular podcasts on Apple Podcasts and that their subscriptions grew from 12,000 to two million downloads in two months.
But in April 2020, “Call Her Daddy” stopped releasing new episodes and avid listeners suspected something was amiss with their favorite pod. About a month later, Portnoy posted a 30-minute update and explainer on the “Call Her Daddy” platform, detailing his perspective of the messy contract renegotiations between Barstool Sports, Franklyn, and Cooper. Portnoy said he offered the women a new contract of $500,000 a year in addition to other bonuses, also revealing to everyone listening that Cooper wanted to accept the deal but Franklyn did not. Behind the scenes, Franklyn and Cooper were arguing about the role they each played on the podcast and the future trajectory of the show.
From Franklyn’s perspective, things took a left turn after what turned out to be her last conversation with Portnoy during their contract negotiation in the spring of 2020. Up until that point, she said she was under the impression that she and Cooper were on the same page about not wanting to waver on certain elements of their new contract with Barstool. Then Franklyn said there was “a shift of insane magnitude” on Cooper’s end — one that left her feeling confused, especially considering the co-hosts “were hired as a team.”
“Everything that we had been working toward and planning for the last half a year to year was all of a sudden not the plan anymore and [Cooper thought] we needed to just stay with this company and do what [Portnoy] was saying,” Franklyn said. “I found out later [Cooper and Portnoy] 1,000% had this relationship that I wasn’t aware of and not a part of. I thought [Cooper was my] best friend, sister, and we are not hiding anything. There’s no way in hell I would speak to our boss without you, that would be fucking crazy, and I don’t think that went both ways.”
When all of this was going down, Cooper and Portnoy said that Franklyn was adamant that her then-boyfriend Nelson helped secure the co-hosts a potential lucrative deal with Wondery that she didn’t want to renege on. According to Franklyn, she wasn’t thinking about jumping ship until after this meeting the women had with Portnoy. “I was just trying to figure out, how are we going to make a decision that feels right for both of us?” she said.
A sticking point in the contract renegotiations was Franklyn and Cooper being able to retain the rights to the podcast’s intellectual property, and if they collectively stuck out one more year with Barstool Sports — which Cooper did — then they would have both been able to own their IP and take the podcast elsewhere together in 2021. Not only were the co-hosts no longer a united front, which made the idea of continuing to work together difficult, but Franklyn said there were other issues and details in the deal that didn’t sit right with her — one being that Barstool was apparently going to have 100% of the alcohol rights to anything “Call Her Daddy”-related in perpetuity.
“So until I die, I can’t even see a slice of this?” Franklyn said. “Getting the IP back would’ve been great, but I’m not going to throw everything else out the fucking window. I mean, God forbid it becomes the next White Claw or something and we’re just sitting there like, what the fuck? We need to protect ourselves.”
Another issue Franklyn had was with the percentage she and Cooper were set to make off merchandise Barstool sold on behalf of “Call Her Daddy.” She said each co-host received 2.5% of their merchandise sales, which was frustrating for her to see when one hoodie alone earned $1 million in total sales, something Franklyn credited to her own storytelling and personal creativity. Even though the new contract was allegedly going to increase their percentage of earnings to about 7% each, Franklyn still thought that was too small and unfair of a number.
Representatives for Cooper declined to comment for this story.
In May 2022, Cooper posted a 34-minute video to YouTube explaining her perspective of what went down between her, Franklyn, and Barstool Sports. In the video, Cooper said that Portnoy did offer the “Call Her Daddy” co-hosts alcohol rights as well as an increase in merchandising and the intellectual property. She also said the two co-hosts walked away from their initial meeting with Portnoy on his rooftop feeling very differently and that she was excited about his initial proposal, calling it “the deal of a lifetime.”
“At the end of the day, I wanted Sofia to be happy. I wanted her to take the Barstool deal, but I also didn’t want to, like, force her into something she didn’t want. But at the end of the day, I really wanted her to take it with me,” Cooper said in the video.
The “Call Her Daddy” host went on to explain that “it got exhausting trying to appease” Franklyn’s asks during the contract negotiations, that she was frustrated going back and forth with Nelson and Franklyn’s team of agents and lawyer, and they were not on the same page anymore. Cooper said it became clear through their conversations that she wanted to stay at Barstool while Franklyn did not. “It started to get really bad because it got all about money,” Cooper said. That’s when she said she hired her own representation and negotiated her own deal with Portnoy.
“When I saw that the person that I thought I was in business with had a posse of people that significantly affect her decision-making, I had to make a decision for myself and my own career,” Cooper continued in the video. “And that’s why I’m sitting here alone right now. I didn’t have a boyfriend make my decision. I didn’t have an agency make my decision. I had to make a decision for myself.”
The way Franklyn sees it, she was just like every other woman who works for a business that tries to get a raise or get paid what they’re worth. Thinking back on the situation, Franklyn said she’d be remiss to not consider how different the conversation and the publicity around it would have been “if it were two dudes.” Similar to sex, Franklyn said, she thinks men are empowered to speak openly about money and “can say whatever the fuck they want” but for women, talking about money in relation to work is taboo.
“You think misogyny or sexism or unfair pay won’t affect you, and speaking up and voicing your opinion, won’t affect you,” she said. “But it affects every woman.”
Leaving Barstool and the “Call Her Daddy” podcast in her rearview was an isolating time for Franklyn, who said she moved back to Utah and was in a constant state of anxiety because she wasn’t sure what kind of news she was going to wake up to every morning about her own career and reputation.
“It was affecting me, people that were very close to me, and my family not knowing what was going to be said from a fucking megaphone,” Franklyn said, referring to Portnoy’s public discourse around the “Call Her Daddy” drama.
“And then I see this person who I thought was my best friend, sister, who I thought, ‘You’re going to be at my wedding, you’re my kids’ godmother,’ I see her joining in. It’s kind of like we have a, I’m not going to say diagnosed sociopath, but a little bit of a wonky character who has like a huge following, and I’m obviously referring to my old boss [Portnoy], and then someone who knows every fucking secret detail of your life [Cooper] and they’re, like, outing shit that you thought would never be out.”
One year after Franklyn was criticized by Cooper, Portnoy, and Barstool’s army of followers and fans for asking for a new deal of $1 million per host as well as other specifics around increases in merchandise revenue and other bonuses, Cooper took “Call Her Daddy” to Spotify for $60 million. In 2020, Franklyn was publicly condemned and exiled for wanting to make the best business deal for herself and her co-host and for attempting to take the podcast outside of Barstool, then in 2021 Cooper was lauded as a mogul for making 60 times that amount, ultimately leaving Barstool with her public-facing relationship with Portnoy intact.
“I think [Cooper] selling it for that amount was just a testament to what I was saying the entire time, which is what I was chastised for. I was called greedy beyond belief,” Franklyn said. “People heard the number $500,000 and that’s a shit ton of money. But when something is bringing in a minimum of $11 million a year and it’s your face, your personality, your extremely personal stories, it’s not, really. We saw how much it sold for, right?”
In November 2021, Portnoy was accused of sexual misconduct in an investigation by Insider alleging he choked two women while they had sex and filmed them without their consent. In February 2022, three more women told Insider Portnoy filmed them without their consent while they had sex with him. Portnoy vehemently denied all of the accusations made against him in two videos posted to Twitter and called the first investigation “a hit piece.” He then sued Insider for defamation in 2022. The case was dismissed by a judge later that year, prompting Portnoy to appeal the judge’s decision. The appeal was dropped in February 2023.
“The only relationship I had with him was a working one, very professional,” Franklyn said about Portnoy. “There wasn’t too much interaction, that’s how I would describe it.”
When asked about the allegations against Portnoy, Franklyn said, “It was alarming but I was not surprised, if that makes any sense at all.”
“It was shocking to read,” Franklyn added. “I would not say [I was] surprised.”
As far as being a woman who worked at a very male company that has been criticized for its misogyny, Franklyn said she thought the working culture was inappropriate at times and that she witnessed behavior by her colleagues that she felt uncomfortable with.
“Definitely there were some boundaries and things crossed that I personally feel were inappropriate and would not be cool with or support. However, at that time, I didn’t even know entertainment was a thing,” Franklyn said. “And also I was young, too.”
Franklyn said she didn’t experience anything inappropriate firsthand. “I wasn’t very integrated. I kept my distance, I didn’t really engage,” she said. “But I saw, you know, I witnessed and I’ve obviously heard.”
When reached for comment, Portnoy told Rolling Stone, “Sofia has a ton to say about myself and Barstool culture while also simultaneously saying she was never in the office to experience or witness said culture and had virtually no relationship with me. Bottomline is that it’s taken her three years and she still can’t get her story straight. The good news is I ran out of toilet paper so I’ll use this article as my refill.”
In an interview with V Magazine in 2022, Franklyn said she felt like she “was put in a box where I had to be this hyper sexual, over-the-top persona all the time.” When asked why she felt this kind of pressure and where she felt like it was coming from, she told Rolling Stone she feels like she was always “a little bit raunchy” and that it wasn’t uncommon for her to make inappropriate, crazy jokes or comments. “It’s just my personality,” Franklyn explained. Then also, she said she and Cooper were determined to create a podcast that was going to be successful at nearly any cost.
“There was no point in making something that didn’t have that element of craziness,” she said. “I will also say, the company that we launched the show on [Barstool] was a bunch of dudes, and it was dudes who would be standing in on our recordings and dudes tend to talk more graphically, or at least that’s what the media tells us. So I think we just naturally tried to up the ante, you know, and see what kind of feedback or laugh we could get.”
Franklyn is not on speaking terms with Cooper nor Portnoy, but she said she doesn’t feel bitter or angry toward them.
“At this point, I have no room in my life or in my heart to walk around angry at someone. I wish everyone the best,” she said.
Cooper’s $60 million payday doesn’t even spark any resentment in her, Franklyn said.
“I know that might sound hard to believe, but I genuinely don’t feel bad about not cashing in on that. I think I did everything in my power in that situation to make it work at the time,” Franklyn said. “This is coming from the girl who’s like, ‘The number one thing I care about when it comes to dating is what is in their bank account,’ but I think money does not equal happiness.”
The podcast host isn’t necessarily hurting for money herself, she pointed out, despite not achieving Cooper’s level of financial gain. Yes, it was jarring for Franklyn to learn about the huge chunk of change that Spotify ponied up for “Call Her Daddy,” but she insists that she was more upset to lose her relationship with Cooper on a personal level.
“The betrayal piece was more upsetting than the financial piece,” Franklyn said. “I go to bed resting my head on my pillow knowing I’m a good person, I have not done shady shit or fucked up shit or backhanded shit to get ahead financially. That’s more important to me.”
Initially, Franklyn said it was difficult for her to adjust to hosting her podcast alone. When she first started “Sofia with an F,” Franklyn said she didn’t have a fully-laid-out strategy. She said she jumped in without too much planning, not giving a lot of thought to her editorial vision or marketing strategy. Franklyn just wanted to get herself back out there.
“I will say, the first year, year and a half of the show I was like, ‘What the fuck am I doing? I’m still healing, still learning. How do I record for an hour and a half of stand-up [comedy] essentially by myself?’” she said.
But it was both her OG listeners as well as her newfound fan base that kept her motivated to find her lane in the oversaturated podcasting space. While Franklyn said there’s a lot on the horizon and she does want to dip her toe into new business opportunities, including performing live shows for her listeners, she’s currently focused on growing and fine-tuning her podcast. A dream interview of hers is Amber Heard because of the way she was portrayed in the media and by the public during her 2022 trial with Johnny Depp.
“I’ve stayed very true to myself, which was the brand of the old show,” Franklyn said. “There’s still a little bit of shock value, there’s still humor, there’s still some outlandish, explicit, maybe crazy things, but I’ve gotten older the same way my listeners have and the show is just kind of evolving with me.”
Even though “Sofia with an F” has existed for nearly three years now, Franklyn believes she’s entering a new era of her podcast and her career because she’s had more time and space from the drama with “Call Her Daddy,” and now that she’s taken the time to process and speak on it, she’s ready to move on. There are lessons to be learned from everything, Franklyn said, as cliché as that sounds. And now, not only is she extra careful when she’s signing a business deal, but she also fully appreciates how far she’s come.
“If it wasn’t a very uncomfortable, dramatic situation, I don’t think I would have been forced to deal with everything I was forced to deal with,” she said. “It forced me to be the most confident, genuine person and to be able to handle complete turbulence and turmoil.”