The "worldwide leader in sports" ESPN just got hit with a lawsuit, as a new controversy has birthed from another controversy that resulted in the dismissal of well-known tennis broadcaster Doug Adler. The former ESPN tennis analyst was canned from the company following his comments about Venus Williams at the 2017 Australian Open, and Adler is filing suit against the network for his unjust termination, alleging that ESPN unjustly fired him even after he explained the misunderstanding that the world mistook as him calling Williams a "gorilla."
Doug Adler wishes to prove that he was not, in fact, calling Venus Williams a "gorilla", but rather referring to her tennis style as "guerrilla." While the two words are identical in sound, their meanings are entirely different. "Guerrilla Tennis" is a well-known term in the sport, and a style often defined by a specific tactic. Adler alleges that ESPN knew the distinction and that he had explained his actions to them after the incident went public. The lawsuit also states that ESPN execs admitted that they could not for certain say whether Adler said "gorilla" or "guerrilla."
Regardless of what word Doug Adler said during the 2017 Australian Open, it was not well met by the public. Adler's comments about Venus Williams' play faced accusations of racism across the web, and Deadline claims Adler attributes much of this to New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg, who was supposedly trying to win back the favor of the Williams sisters after an unfavorable article of his own. Rothenberg, along with other viewers, took to Twitter to speak out against Adler's statement and defended Venus Williams.
ESPN had Doug Adler go on air later that day and apologize for what he said, as well as clarify his statement. The day after his on-air apology, Adler was fired, and his lawsuit states the firing has defamed him, caused others to label him as a racist, and has lost him additional jobs beyond ESPN. One would assume that Adler is hoping a successful lawsuit may clear his name.
Before he was a commentator for the sport of tennis, Doug Adler turned pro on the court in 1980 and is noted to have reached the semifinals of the NCAA doubles. Admittedly, anyone who tries to quickly Google any statistics on Adler's career will find the incident with Venus Williams tends to dominate those searches. The courts will decide whether or not ESPN was justified in the firing of their former commentator, and hopefully, a sound decision is made.