Ex-ESPN Announcer Sues, Claims He Never Called Venus Williams ‘Gorilla’

Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images
Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

So this one is a bit of a head-scratcher, and I think the initial villain may have a point. So, back in January, former ESPN tennis announcer Doug Adler used the term “gorilla effect” to describe Venus Williams’ domination over Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele during the Australian Open. I, and many other journalists, hopped all over it. You can read my assassination of Adler’s character here, and yes, I may have used the term “assclown.”

Adler was recorded saying: “She misses a first serve and Venus is all over her. You see Venus move in and put the gorilla effect on. Charging.”

At the time, Adler claimed that he was referring to “guerrilla,” as in warfare, not “gorilla,” as in animal. Everyone, including myself and his bosses at ESPN, ignored his claims. ESPN fired Adler, assuming the term was a racist remark, and now Adler’s suing, and he’s bringing receipts.

According to TMZ Sports, Adler claims that the term is a widely used phrase in tennis to describe aggressive play. In fact, Adler noted a ’90s campaign run by Nike that included tennis legend Andre Agassi, called “Guerrilla Tennis.”

Adler claims that ESPN knew this, forced him to apologize for his remark and then fired him anyway. He told TMZ Sports that because his termination played out publicly, he has been having a hard time finding work because “no one will hire a ‘racist.’”


Adler added that he’s “anything but a racist.”

Read more at TMZ Sports.

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.

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I’m a crazy tennis fan and a huge Venus fan, and when I first heard this story, I could believe that Adler actually did mean the word in the way that he claimed. That said, I also believe that it was still pretty egregious lack of discretion and tact to use that turn of phrase given a basic understanding of American history (especially as a commentator) and absolutely something he should apologize for.

He may have a decent case in the termination suit as I didn’t much doubt his usage. But he loses a fair amount of points with the idea that it wasn’t something he should apologize for.