Ex-ESPN Tennis Analyst Volleys Wrongful Termination Suit

Ex-ESPN tennis analyst Doug Adler is suing ESPN for wrongful termination after being fired for on-air comments about Venus Williams during the 2017 Australian Open.

The analyst sparked controversy when he described Williams as having a “gorilla” style of play.    Adler, however, contends that he used the term “guerilla,” in reference to Williams’ aggressive playstyle.

Although Adler issued an on-air apology, the network subsequently fired him.  In a complaint filed in California Superior Court on February 14, 2017, Adler asserts that “guerilla” is a common tennis term.  The complaint alleges that ESPN “admitted to the public it could not ascertain if Plaintiff said ‘gorilla,’” but fired him, anyways in bad faith.  Further, Adler claims that ESPN’s actions have unfairly stigmatized him as a racist and ostracized him from the broadcasting community.

This is not the first time ESPN has disciplined employees for making remarks with racial subtext.  In February, 2012 ESPN suspended a broadcaster for using the phrase “chink in the armor” in reference to Jeremy Lin, and fired an editor for using the same phrase in a headline for ESPN Mobile.

A spokesperson for ESPN said on Wednesday, February 15th that ESPN had not been served and declined further comment.

Suevon Lee, Ex-ESPN Commentator Fired for Venus Williams Remark Sues, LAW 360, (February 14, 2017, 8:51 PM), https://www.law360.com/articles/892102/ex-espn-commentator-fired-for-venus-williams-remark-sues.

Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial, Adler v. ESPN Productions, Inc., No. BC650526 (Cal. Super. Ct. Feb. 14, 2017).

Gregory S. McNeal, ESPN Uses “Chink in the Armor” Line Twice UPDATE- ESPN Fires One Employee Suspends Another, (February 18, 2012, 11:14 AM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregorymcneal/2012/02/18/espn-uses-chink-in-the-armor-line-twice-did-linsanity-just-go-racist/#2a5ace2d7029.