Sports Announcer Sues ESPN For Wrongful Termination Over Mistaken Ethnic Slur
Longtime tennis announcer Doug Adler is suing ESPN for wrongful termination after the network fired him over accusations he used an ethnic slur to describe Venus Williams’ tennis play.
During an ESPN broadcast of the Australian open on January 18, Adler said Williams used “the guerrilla effect” at one point during the match. His use of the word “guerrilla,” which Adler says is a common term to describe aggressive play, was immediately mistaken by viewers to mean something entirely different.
The New York Times mistakenly confused Adler’s use of the word “guerilla” with “gorilla” on Twitter, calling his words “appalling” and therefore causing the comment to go viral, Fox News reports.
Adler finished the broadcast of the match with no mention of an issue from his managers. The next day he returned to work and was told to apologize for his comment on air, which he did. The following day Adler was fired by the network, although he claims that ESPN and its executives knew he said “guerilla,” not “gorilla.”
“By the way ESPN chose to handle this non-issue, they effectively branded me, my character and my reputation for the rest of my life,” Adler told Fox News.
Adler has filed a suit against the sports network claiming wrongful termination, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and economic hardship.
Adler “has lost future opportunities in the sporting and business worlds because no one will hire a ‘racist,’” the lawsuit states. “He has suffered serious emotional distress and harm because he has been falsely accused of being the worst thing imaginable, and something he clearly isn’t and never has been, all over the use of the word ‘guerilla,’ a word that is commonly used in tennis.”
The lawsuit explains the word “guerilla” has been used as a tennis term since a famous Nike advertisement titled “Guerilla Tennis” aired in 1995. The television commercial featured tennis legends Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras playing a match on the streets of a busy city and ran frequently during the U.S. Open.
“The irony is that Adler called everything correctly and in a professional manner, whereas ESPN did not – they recklessly made the wrong call,” Adler’s attorney said in a statement. “It was not only political correctness gone overboard, but also a cowardly move that ruined a good man’s career.”
Adler began working for ESPN in 2008.