Former tennis commentator, Doug Adler, a litigant bringing a wrongful termination suit in a California case, recently suffered a heart attack. Adler, a former tennis commentator who served as a tennis analyst and commentator for ESPN before he was terminated, blames the heart attack on the stress related to the legal dispute he is having with his previous employer.
Based out of California, Adler was working the Australian Open on January 18th of 2017 when he made a comment related to the combative/aggressive style of play being exhibited by the well-known tennis player, Venus Williams, that started the entire ordeal. Adler described her style of play as “the guerilla effect” and quickly came under fire – first by the public on social media and then by ESPN, his long time employer. Adler maintains in his wrongful termination lawsuit that the term “guerilla” he used to describe Williams’ game is a term that has been used previously to describe aggressive tennis play. Many viewers and listeners interpreted the comment as “gorilla” and assumed it was a derogatory and racist remark in connection to Williams being African-American. Adler was essentially accused of uttering a racial slur on air. Instead of backing their analyst, ESPN required him to produce an on-air apology the next day. When the criticism kept coming ESPN fired Adler.
Adler has since stated that he regrets the way that ESPN handled the non-issue. Their response to the public misinterpretation and subsequent backlash effectively branded Adler, his character and his reputation for life and essentially black listed him in his industry. Future opportunities that were previously open to Adler in the sporting and business worlds are now closed to him because his previous employer, ESPN, has branded him a racist publicly. He states in his suit that he has suffers serious emotional distress and harm due to the false accusations and is adamant that he is not and has never been a racist. He is also adamant that the word “guerilla” is a word that is commonly used in the world of tennis to describe aggressive/combative play and that it is an acceptable description.
Adler’s recent heart attack came after the wrongful termination lawsuit was filed. It is not known how this will affect the lawsuit going forward. According to major news outlets, Adler is claiming intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and economic hardship. The suit names ESPN, ESPN Senior Vice President Mark Gross, and Vice President Jamie Reynolds and seeks unspecified damages. Some are now wondering if these “damages” will now include medical costs.
If you need to discuss wrongful termination with an experienced California employment law attorney, please contact us at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.