Tennis commentator Doug Adler who was fired from his job at ESPN for controversial comments about Venus Williams, setting off a firestorm of social media attacks, is denying that hes a racist. He believes hes another victim of ESPNs ultra-sensitive , impulsive reactions to social media and the company’s desire to be politically correct all across the board – which is impossible.
He says the misunderstanding has cost him a cherished career. Adler spoke with Matt Lauer on TODAY Friday about the aftermath of his comment on Jan. 18 during Venus Williams’ match at the Australian Open and his subsequent firing, which prompted him to file a lawsuit against ESPN for wrongful termination.
When the U.S. Open begins next week, veteran broadcaster Doug Adler will be forced to watch from the sidelines because a comment he made about Venus Williams in January on ESPN is threatening to end his career. But Adler tells TODAY’s Matt Lauer that it’s a big misunderstanding.
Lauer asked Adler how it feels after all hes accomplished, to be synonymous with the word racist.
“It just makes me absolutely sick,” Adler told Lauer about being branded a racist. “It’s not true. It couldn’t be further from the truth, and I don’t quite understand nor accept how something like that can happen to me.”
During Williams’ match against Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele, Adler was describing Williams’ aggressive play when he said, “Venus is all over her. And you’ll see Venus move in and put the guerrilla effect on, charging.”
Social media went nuts. Most people interpreted it as Adler referring to Williams as a “gorilla,” not “guerrilla,” which he strongly denies. Anybody with half a brain knows that you don’t put Blacks in a sentence with gorillas, apes, monkeys or “guerrillas.”
“Nothing to do with an animal,” he told Lauer. “Everything to do with tactics, strategy, how to win the point.”
Adler says the last few months of his career has consisted of 20-hour days on social media defending his name. He’s also had a heart attack. Hes obsessed to be vindicated in some way. As a sports fan and someone familiar with certain military terms I get what Adler was saying.
In the nine years ESPN has hired him as a tennis commentator, hes never made a racially insensitive remark. Maybe it was a poor choice of words considering how sensitive the country is on race issues right now and how tense the Black community is as they watch their civil rights be attacked and neglected by the President himself.
David Dinkins, the only African-American Mayor in New York City history and a lifelong tennis buff, has come to Adlers defense, but the cat is already out of the bag and ESPNs relationship with the legendary Venus Williams is way more important than their relationship with Adler.
Problem is, moving on is something, Adler says, he cant do.
They made me unemployable, he told Lauer. There are many journalists who share Adlers pain. He really got fired because of the social media backlash more than him unintentionally saying something that could be interpreted as a racially insensitive remark. Its another example of how strong the opinion of nobody is to the biggest somebody. The new media world we live in is one where expertise on a subject means nothing.
This Doug Adler firing story is really messed up https://t.co/WoAqY2O1hL We’ve got to stop letting social media dictate anything
ESPN stands by the firing to this day. We live in a tough climate right now. ESPN is king of media and they are moving in on the social news and race market. Announcers have to be careful about the words they choose, because if the social media moshpit riffs too loudly, heads are rolling and jobs are being lost.
Adler is another victim of the social media effect on the sports entertainment media business.