More than two years after some tennis fans on Twitter set in motion a chain of events that appeared to have destroyed tennis broadcaster Doug Adler’s career, there’s a happy ending.
Awaiting more details from ESPN on this, but according to the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick, ESPN has settled the lawsuit Adler filed on Feb. 14, 2017.
Reached in California, Adler confirmed to tennis.life that he has dropped the lawsuit.
“I am no longer pursuing legal claims against ESPN.I have been asked about my lawsuit and claims for more than a year. And at this point I believe it is in my best interests to move forward and to focus on the future,” he said. “I look forward to my employment with ESPN.”
No word so far on the nature of the settlement. But the fact that it appears Adler now will be an ESPN employee is, in fact, big news for the longtime broadcaster.
Major props to new @espn president Jimmy Pitaro. ESPN has settled Doug Adler’s lawsuit after he was fired for using phrase “guerrilla effect” in a Venus Williams match and they have rehired him to cover tennis matches. As close to a public apology as I have ever seen.
Adler had always been working freelance. In fact, in the early documents ESPN brought to the table when the case appeared headed for trial last fall, his employment status – who his employer/superior actually was – was one of the elements of the company’s defense.
The statement issued by an ESPN spokesperson was brief.
“We have amicably resolved our dispute with Doug Adler.”
The jury trial to rule on the lawsuit was to begin Oct. 15, 2018. It later was postponed to April. Now, it won’t happen at all.
Venus Williams and the “Guerrilla Effect”
The on-air incident that led to the legal action came in the first week of the 2017 Australian Open.
It involved Adler’s use of the term “putting the guerrilla effect on” during Venus Williams’s match against Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland.
It’s a phrase that likely first came into the tennis vernacular with the iconic Nike commercial in the mid 1990s. The commercial starred Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras and the theme was “guerrilla tennis”.
When I first heard the video, after the issue blew up, I immediately knew what Adler was referring to.
But the word “guerrilla” was heard as “gorilla” by some fans watching at home. And given Williams is African-American, and given the long history of racism the sisters have endured throughout their brilliant careers, it pushed a hot button. A couple of Tweets turned into a relative avalanche. And ESPN went into damage control mode.
Adler was dismissed from his duties for the rest of the first-week interactive ESPN coverage. His disappearance from the booth (which was in Los Angeles, not Melbourne) followed an on-air apology Adler said he didn’t feel he should make.
Rather, he wanted to clarify his comments. But Adler says he did it because he was assured by his superior that it would result in him not losing his gig, that it would calm the situation down.
The now 61-year-old’s devastation in the aftermath led to multiple physical and emotional issues, including a heart attack. (Adler had coronary bypass surgery March 29).
On Feb. 14, 2017, he filed the suit against ESPN for wrongful termination and four other complaints.
The lawsuit filing explained what Adler meant by the term.
“To someone like Plaintiff, who has over 40 years of tennis experience, the phase “guerrilla tennis” is something that has frequently been used to describe a player’s aggressive surprise tactics in the sport,” it states. It also states that “many other tennis commentators and writers have used “guerrilla” to describe aggressive tennis players”. And that it “became widely used by those who actually understood tennis vernacular and followed the sport closely.”
The document even quoted Mao Tse-Tung’s definition of “guerrilla warfare”.
Social media reaction creates storm
The biggest reason that this issue became a full-blown crisis within ESPN was that it quickly spread across Twitter – as these things tend to do.
Adler’s claim stated he was pulled out of the broadcast booth the next day to “discuss issues raised by a handful of people on social media”. He referred again to “a few people on social media”, and “a couple of media outlets” that had contacted ESPN.
For its part, ESPN described the reaction as a “viral uprising on social media, and mainstream global media accused him of making a racist comment”.
The chain of events that followed was laid out in those court documents, as the situation went up and down the chain within ESPN and resulted in Adler being let go, even though he had done nothing wrong.
Finally, it seems the regrettable incident is resolved, although Adler can never get those two years of his life back.
But perhaps the new gig will serve as salve for those wounds.
As the new Davis Cup format looks to entice the Big Four to buy in, it may well be they’ve ignored the next generation.
Many future stars have bemoaned the new format.
And the best of them, Alexander Zverev, is clear the proposed dates are a deal-breaker.
“I’m still not playing Davis Cup in November. That’s not gonna happen. It’s nothing against the Davis Cup. I love the Davis Cup. I love my country … But if they put any other event end of November, I’m also going to not play it,” he said at Laver Cup.
NEW YORK – The women’s singles final at the US Open might not have ended the way many hoped, or expected.
But the high level of drama meant that the overnight ratings on host broadcaster ESPN went (by tennis standards), through the roof.
The Williams vs. Naomi Osaka match checked in with the second-highest overnight ratings in ESPN’s history with the event. ESPN took over the non-weekend broadcast rights from the USA network in 2009 and has had the exclusive rights since CBS exited the picture in 2015.
The only broadcast with higher ratings (out of 225 in total) was the network’s prime-time broadcast on quarterfinals day in 2015, when Williams played her sister Venus.
Up 32% from ’17, 79% from ’16
Last night’s program is tied for second all-time with the 2015 men’s singles final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
The 2.4 overnight rating is up 32 per cent from last year’s women’s final between Americans Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys. And it is 79 per cent higher than the 2016 women’s final between Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova, two non-Americans.
Not surprisingly, the numbers peaked (at 3.3) during the last 15 minutes of the match – when everything went haywire.
The highest ratings came from the West Palm Beach area (where Williams resides) at a 6.0, Washington, D.C. at 5.5, and Richmond, Virginia at 5.1. New York City checked in at 4.5.
It will be fascinating – although hardly conclusive about any bigger-picture issues – to see how the men’s final between Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro does, in comparison.
(The numbers indicated above are the percentage of households in the U.S., who have the TV turned on, and were watching the tennis. It is obviously a statistical analysis based on sample sizes, and not an exact count).
NEW YORK – The U.S. Tennis Association came through with what they said they would do back in June.
They upgraded former champion Serena Williams’ seeding for this year’s women’s event.
The 36-year-old would be No. 26 based upon her current ranking. But the tournament moved her up to No. 17.
On the plus side, it doesn’t bump a deservedly seeded player out, as it did at Wimbledon with Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia.
But it’s largely a ceremonial bump of nine spots. The way the brackets work for seeding purposes, seeds No. 17 through No. 24 are drawn at random, to (potentially) face a player in the No. 9 through No. 16 seeds bracket in the third round.
So moving Williams up two spots, to No. 24, would have had the same effect.
“If she would have gone to the finals of these (US Open Series) tournaments, I think that would have raised her seeding a little bit, but again, she was — I think safely we can say unsuccessful in the hard court lead-up. For them to seed her 17, I think that’s pretty fair,” Chris Evert said during an ESPN conference call on Wednesday.
Save Venus, sacrifice Gavilova
(Here’s Williams practicing in cavernous Arthur Ashe Wednesday. The roof was closed, and it was hot and pretty stuffy in there).
Had the tournament seeded Williams any higher, it would have meant that her older sister Venus – also a former champion and currently in the No. 16 spot – would have been dropped out of that group.
Again, that’s fairly symbolic in the sense that 9-16 are drawn to play against 17-24. So in that sense, had Venus been in the lower bracket and drawn a player seeded No. 9-12 in the third round – and beaten her, it would have actually improved her lot.
The way the elder Williams has looked this summer, it might well be a moot point.
Instead, the casualty of the USTA’s arbitrary treatment for Williams is Australia’s Daria Gavrilova.
Gavrilova would have been the No. 24 seed (in that 17-24) group. With Serena Williams’s upgrade, she’ll now be No. 25 and in that 25-32 group that is drawn to face one of the top eight in the third round.
In a little bit of symmetry, Gavrilova is the only player Williams defeated during a truncated US Open series warmup tour.
Not a great summer
Williams was trounced, 6-1, 6-0 by Johanna Konta in her first match at the San Jose tournament. There were some seriously extenuating circumstances in that match, despite an opinion held by some that Konta wasn’t given her due for the victory.
But dropping a baguette and a bagel on Serena Williams involves a lot more than a player who has struggled most of the season having a vintage day.
It was clear even during the match that Williams was agitated. Often, she looked flat-out anguished. And anyone who has watched her throughout her career could tell that this wasn’t run-on-the-mill Williams on-court drama.
Basically, she needed a mental health week – which of course is her right.
Seeded on the past, not the present
After beating Gavrilova in Cincinnati, Williams was beaten by a red-hot Petra Kvitova in a match of tremendously high quality. But she didn’t win it.
Evert’s colleague Brad Gilbert said in the same conference call that he would have seeded Williams No. 1 at Wimbledon, based on her history. And he would have put her in the 5-8 bracket in New York.
“She’s never had this love before in her life. She’s never had this nurturing feeling, this protective feeling. It doesn’t switch on and off. It’s there. … Even more than the physical part, the emotional part is the toughest one to try to figure out for Serena to be successful and to get back to being No. 1 and also to feel guilt-free that she’s spending enough time with her child,” Evert said.
“It’s just a love affair that she’s never had before, and it’s just gut-wrenching sometimes when you’re feeling guilty about your kid. Again, these are — she’s only had to think about herself her whole career. She’s only had to think about Serena.”