Happy Valentine’s Day, ESPN. Here’s a lawsuit.
A journalist who was pulled from duty after describing Venus Williams’ “guerrilla” style of playing while covering the Australian Open last month is now suing ESPN, contending that the sports network “bowed to the Twitter universe of haters and those ignorant of tennis who thought [he] used the word ‘gorilla’ to describe Venus Williams that day.”
The lawsuit, filed by tennis analyst Doug Adler in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday,, also names ESPN senior vice president Mark Gro and vice president Jamie Reynolds as defendants.
The lawsuit alleges that Adler, who was hired by ESPN in 2008, was wrongfully terminated while covering the 2017 Australian Open, after he “described Venus Williams as using ‘guerrilla’ tactics, a description that is commonly used in tennis to describe a form of aggressive play. ESPN bowed to pressure from those using social media, including Twitter, who mistakenly believed that Adler used the word ‘gorilla’ to describe Venus Williams.”
“ESPN wrongfully terminated Adler and has since caused other employers to shun Adler, causing Adler serious financial and emotional harm,” the lawsuit continues.
Adler’s attorney, Daid M. Ring of civil-rights firm Taylor & Ring, called ESPN “cowardly” in a statement provided to TheWrap.
“The irony is that Adler called everything correctly and in a professional manner, whereas ESPN did not — they recklessly made the wrong call,” Ring said. “It was not only political correctness gone overboard, but also a cowardly move that ruined a good man’s career.”
Alleging wrongful termination of employment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and other counts, the lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages.
“We have not been served and am declining further comment,” an ESPN spokesman told TheWrap.