ESPN has been hit with a wrongful termination lawsuit after firing veteran tennis commentator Doug Adler for making what the sports media network is calling a racist remark about Venus Williams during the Australian Open. Adler claims that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing - and that the cable network knows he is innocent.
Understanding Adler's Wrongful Termination Suit Against ESPN
The sports media giant claims that Adler was fired for using a racially-charged slur, "gorilla" to describe Williams. However, the lawsuit alleges that ESPN, ESPN SVP Mark Gross, and VP Jamie Reynolds knew that Adler had used the term, "guerrilla" yet the company "fired him anyway." Adler claims that he described Williams as having a "guerrilla" style of play.
The complaint filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court argues that tennis experts have long-described aggressive tennis play by using the term, "guerilla tennis." The suit also cites examples of the "guerilla tennis" term from a famous Nike ad, Sports Illustrated and even ESPN itself.
Adler Was Fired a Day After He Apologized to the Public
Adler's mention of the term, "guerilla" caused an uproar on social media sites like Twitter, and the lawsuit claims that ESPN "bowed to the Twitter universe of haters and those ignorant of tennis who thought (Adler) used the word 'gorilla' to describe Venus Williams that day." After Adler was made to go on-air to apologize to the public and clarify what he meant, ESPN fired him the next day after a decade-long career of commentating for the sports network.
The lawsuit claims that ESPN even admitted in its own article that because "gorilla" and "guerilla" both sound the same "it was 'impossible' (in ESPN's view) to say for certain which word Plaintiff spoke." The lawsuit goes on to say that this admission "demonstrates that Defendants acted in bad-faith in terminating Plaintiff's employment" and that "prior to the discharge, Plaintiff fully explained to ESPN that he had used the word 'guerrilla.'"
Adler Defamed, Loses Other Announcing Jobs Due to Termination
The results of Adler's very public termination from ESPN have made the veteran tennis analyst a victim of ostracism and defamation. The lawsuit claims that Adler has been "labeled a 'racist,' and has lost other announcing jobs with employers other than ESPN."
Adler's wrongful termination claim cites an "employment relationship" with ESPN, which may mean that the commentator did not have a contract with the sports media giant. But if Adler were in fact a contractual employee, he could build a stronger case.
Adler's wrongful termination suit against ESPN claims intentional infliction of emotional stress and economic damages.
California Law Protects Employees from Wrongful Termination
Both federal and California laws protect employees from wrongful termination in cases where they have been discharged as a result of discriminatory or retaliatory reasons. If you feel you are a victim of wrongful termination in California, contact our expert Los Angeles employment attorneys at Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation.