ESPN has finally settled a lawsuit filed by tennis commentator Doug Adler ,who was fired for saying that Venus Williams used “guerrilla” tactics on the tennis court. Moreover, the network didn’t rule out possibly re-hiring Adler to do tennis commentary in the future.
Doug Adler was a key part of ESPN’s coverage of the Australian Open in 2017 when, during coverage of the match between Venus Williams and Stefanie Voegele, he used the military term “guerrilla effect” to describe Williams’ style of play. ESPN became afraid that Adler had used an insensitive term in describing Williams’ — who is black — and mistook guerilla for gorilla. After some viewers reportedly complained, ESPN summarily fired Adler.
Here’s the audio of Adler’s call:
Adler filed a lawsuit against ESPN claiming wrongful termination, but shortly after the filing, Adler had a heartattack.
Eventually a judge denied ESPN’s request to throw the case out of court and it went forward.
But in the meantime, ESPN leadership underwent a sea change with Jimmy Pitaro taking the lead at the cable sports network. Hired to right the sinking ESPN ship, Pitaro began making major changes to the network. And perhaps as part of that effort, Adler’s lawsuit has been quietly settled out of court.
Not only has the lawsuit been settled and Adler awarded an unknown amount of money, but some sources say he is to be returned to ESPN’s active employee list and may even be allowed back on the air for the upcoming tennis season.
ESPN offered no official apology, but the reinstatement and monetary settlement is a tacit admission of the network’s responsibility.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.