Doug Adler might have chosen his words more carefully, but that doesn’t mean he should have been fired.
That’s the case Adler is making in a lawsuit against ESPN for wrongful termination. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Adler, 58, was canned last month by ESPN following a comment about Venus Williams during the Australian Open. When describing Williams’ style of play, Adler said Williams “put the guerrilla effect on” during a win over Stefanie Voegele.
The comment lit up social media with users calling Adler a racist for referring to Williams as a “gorilla,” hearing the homonym instead of what Adler says he meant. Adler said he “simply and inadvertently chose the wrong word to describe her play.” ESPN immediately pulled him from future broadcasts and fired him the next day.
“I knew I’d been treated badly and unfairly,” Adler told the Southern California News Group on Tuesday. “When I saw what it was doing to my reputation, I knew I’d have to fight for my name.”
ESPN declined comment with a spokesperson telling the Southern California News Group the network has not been served.
Adler claims his comment wasn’t even deemed controversial until a rebroadcast of the Jan. 18 match was aired the next day. The suit says ESPN “took the easy way out and bowed to the Twitter universe of haters.”
Adler had been a broadcaster for 15 years following a professional playing career. He now says his termination from ESPN is costing him future jobs because his reputation has been “damaged forever.”
Adler is seeking an undisclosed amount in compensation and damages.