A sports reporter from The New York Times destroyed the career of an ESPN anchor, lying about what he said about tennis player Venus Williams and calling the ESPN anchor’s comment “racist.” So far, there have been no repercussions at all for the Times writer.
The comment that sparked the row came from ESPN anchor Doug Adler, who said that Williams employed guerrilla tactics on the tennis court during her play at the Australian Open on January 18. Describing Williams’ play, Adler said, “You see Venus move in and put the guerrilla effect on. Charging.” Immediately, viewers and sports fans began tweeting that Adler had called the African American tennis player a “gorilla.”
The “guerrilla tactics” comment is a known sports term, since sportswear giant Nike began using the term for an ad campaign in 1995, according to Kyle Smith of Acculturated.com. The campaign featured two white tennis players, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, so clearly the term “guerilla” had no racial connotation to it.
In short order, Times reporter Ben Rothenberg, who is a tennis reporter, furthered the fiction by slamming Adler on Twitter, calling the mythical comment “appalling stuff.”
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 19, 2017
Smith notes, “Rothenberg took one misunderstood word, turned it into an imaginary insult, then doubled the fantasy slur,” by making Adler’s comment about both Williams sisters instead of just Venus.
Unfortunately, once he got off the air that day, ESPN bosses fired Adler even after initially saying they fully understood that he meant “guerrilla,” not “gorilla.”
“During an Australian Open stream on ESPN3, Doug Adler should have been more careful in his word selection,” an ESPN statement said after firing the commentator.
“I knew I’d been treated badly and unfairly,” Adler told the media. “When I saw what it was doing to my reputation, I knew I’d have to fight for my name.”
“It was not only political correctness gone overboard, but also a cowardly move that ruined a good man’s career,” Adler’s lawyer, David Ring told the Los Angeles Daily News.
Much of this horrendous treatment of Adler was driven by the lies pushed by Rothenberg, yet both Rothenberg and The New York Times have remained completely untouched.
Indeed, the so-called “paper of record” has practically ignored the story instigated by its own reporter.
As Smith notes, “despite the key role one of its own writers played in his downfall, and despite the immense contemporary interest in accusations of race bias,” the whole episode has gone “unmentioned” in the pages of the Times.
“For the Paper of Record to fail to take notice of such a culturally fraught story located at dead center of one of its chief areas of interest speaks volumes.,” Smith concluded.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.