Commentator Denies Calling Venus Williams a “Gorilla”, Sues ESPN
An ESPN commentator who was sacked for making controversial statements about Venus Williams during the Australian Open is now planning to sue his former employers for wrongful termination, according to UK Independent.
Doug Adler, a former athlete who played professional tennis between 1979 and 1981, was on air during Venus Williams’ second round match against Stefanie Voegele in Melbourne when he appeared to call her a “gorilla”. Adler was subsequently sacked by the broadcaster for the alleged slur, but he has rejected the claim and said that he was actually calling Venus’ playing style “like a guerilla.”
When many viewers complained of racism, ESPN suspended Adler, and then later decided to sack him. He did apologise to the seven-time Grand Slam champion, but still insisted that what he had said was, “Venus moved in and put the guerrilla effect on.”
Adler’s lawyers, who claim that he suffered “emotional distress” on account of being accused of racism, also said that the term “guerilla tennis” is commonly used in the sport and cited an advert featuring Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras which coined the term. ESPN, though, hasn’t received any official notice, and thus refused to comment on the issue.
“We have not been served and are declining further comment,” said an official statement from the American broadcasting giant.