The NY Post reports Former tennis pro Doug Adler maintains he was describing Williams’ aggressive style last month as “guerrilla” tactics and not comparing her with a “gorilla.”
He apologized for his poor word choice but was let go from ESPN mid-tournament.
Adler claims “emotional distress” in the filing in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging he was wrongly branded a racist and has lost other TV opportunities because of the controversy.
The lawsuit calls for punitive financial damages, but doesn’t name an amount.
The suit points out that “Guerrilla Tennis” was the name of a Nike TV ad from the 1990s featuring Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.
“Obviously, (Adler) saw that commercial many times and the phrase became widely used by those who actually understood tennis vernacular and followed the sport closely,” the lawsuit said.
Peter Bodo, senior editor of Tennis magazine, used the term in a 2012 profile of Agnieszka Radwanska, according to court papers.
Adler was doing play-by-play commentary on ESPN for Williams’ Jan. 18 match against Stefanie Voegele, saying Williams was playing more aggressively after Voegele missed serves. When Voegele faulted on a serve, Adler described Williams as moving in and charging with a “gorilla effect” or “guerrilla effect.” Because the words gorilla and guerrilla are pronounced similarly, it’s impossible to say for certain which word Adler spoke.
Offended viewers called for Adler to be fired for comparing Williams, who is African-American, with a gorilla.