A tennis commentator dropped by ESPN for a remark about Venus Williams during the Australian Open sued the sports network Tuesday for wrongful termination.
Former tennis pro Doug Adler maintains he was describing Williams’ aggressive style last month as “guerrilla” tactics and not comparing her with a “gorilla.” He apologized for his poor word choice but was let go from ESPN mid-tournament.
Adler claims “emotional distress” in the filing in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging he was wrongly branded a racist and has lost other TV opportunities because of the controversy. The lawsuit calls for punitive financial damages, but doesn’t name an amount.
ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys said Tuesday the network hadn’t seen the lawsuit and had no comment.
The suit points out that “Guerrilla Tennis” was the name of a Nike TV ad from the 1990s featuring Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.
“Obviously, (Adler) saw that commercial many times and the phrase became widely used by those who actually understood tennis vernacular and followed the sport closely,” the lawsuit said.
ESPN’s reaction is clearly way, way over the top and reminds me of the controversy over the word niggardly. As Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP, stated in reaction to the forced resignation of David Howard (aide to Mayor Anthony Williams of Washington D.C.), “David Howard should not have quit. Mayor Williams should bring him back—and order dictionaries issued to all staff who need them.” Bond also added, “You hate to think you have to censor your language to meet other people’s lack of understanding,” and,”Seems to me the mayor has been niggardly in his judgment on the issue and that as a nation the US has a hair-trigger sensibility on race that can be tripped by both real and false grievances.”
Ditto here. If Adler had a history of racially insensitive remarks, I can agree with a stronger level of discipline, including termination. But using a term which has precedent in the context of tennis is political correctness gone amok and surrenders intellect to ignorance.