Less than a month after pink-slipping tennis analyst Doug Adler for a seemingly racist remark about Venus Williams, ESPN was hit today with a wrongful-termination lawsuit by the veteran commentator. Adler insists he did nothing wrong, did not call the Grand Slam champ a “gorilla” and that the sports media giant knows it.
“In fact, ESPN, GROSS, and REYNOLDS and Does 1-50 knew that Plaintiff used the word ‘guerrilla,’ and not ‘gorilla,’” asserts the 18-page, jury seeking, six-claim complaint against the Disney-own cable channel and ESPN SVP Mark Gross and VP Jamie Reynolds (read it here). “Yet it fired him anyway.”
“We have not been served and am declining further comment,” an ESPN spokesperson said Tuesday about the unspecified but wide-ranging and damage-seeking action from Adler.
“ESPN announced the firing of Plaintiff with a press release and on its website with the headline, ‘ESPN Tennis Commentator Apologizes For Description of Venus Williams’ Style of Play’ (January 19, 2017), the filing Tuesday in LA Superior Court adds. “ESPN admitted in its own news article that, because the two words sound the same, it was ‘impossible’ (in ESPN’s view) to say for certain which word Plaintiff spoke,” says the complaint. “This admission demonstrates that Defendants acted in bad-faith in terminating Plaintiff s employment. ESPN admitted to the public it could not ascertain if Plaintiff said ‘gorilla.’ And, prior to the discharge, Plaintiff fully explained to ESPN that he used the word “guerrilla” and explained the context of why that word was appropriate for the situation at hand.
Citing examples from a famed NIKE ad, ESPN itself Sports Illustrated and other outlets, Adler’s justification of appropriateness against Olympian Williams is that the term “guerrilla tennis” is a decades old widely used phrase to “describe a player’s aggressive tactics in the sport.” That is what 15-year tennis analyst Adler says he was doing at the 2017 Australian Open last month when referring to Williams moves on the court.
Facing uproar online for his comment, Adler was told to go on-air on January 18 to “apologize” and clarify his words. A day after he did that and after a decade commenting on tennis for the cabler, Adler says ESPN canned him publicly Adler accuses NYT reporter Ben Rothenberg of allegedly fanning the flames of the situation to “get back” in the favor of the Williams sisters after a 2015 piece on body image supposedly anger the championship siblings.
“As a direct result of ESPN’s wrongful termination of Plaintiff, Plaintiff has been ostracized , defamed, labeled a ‘racist,’ and lost other announcing jobs with other employers other than ESPN,”says the complaint filed by David Ring of Manhattan Beach’s Taylor & Ring and Eric Gowey of Santa Monica’s Gowey Law, A.P.C..
BTW – Venus Williams went all the way to the finals of the Australian Open where her sister Serena in a hard fought match beat her.