Doug Adler claims he recently suffered a heart attack — and insists ESPN’s to blame.
The former tennis pro-cum-Entertainment Sports Programming Network commentator was calling a match between Venus Williams and Stefanie Voegele during January’s Australian Open when he ventured the following: “[Voegele] misses a first serve and Venus is all over her. You’ll see Venus move in and put the guerrilla effect on. Charging.”
Some folks assumed he said “gorilla” — and because Adler is white and Venus Williams is African-American, because some observers have nothing better to do than stay on their deathless, hawk-eyed lookout for excuses to be offended, and because many others are either a) ignorant or b) just plain stupid, a hullabaloo followed.
The New York Times‘ Ben Rothenberg threw a social-media hissy over Adler’s descriptor. He resorted to Twitter-pating: “This is some appalling stuff. Horrifying that the Williams sisters remain subjected to it still in 2017 … Innocent mistake or not, there has to be way, way more awareness and sensitivity.”
Days after the contretemps, Adler was “removed … from his remaining assignments” at ESPN; effectively fired from his broadcasting berth at the Cable Channel behemoth.
The fifty-nine-year-old sports-media personality avowed he wasn’t referencing giant, Central African apes in his remark, but tapping, instead, the term “guerilla”; which dictionary.com defines as “hit-and-run”.
Black columnist and Adler acquaintance Larry Elder backed him up, vouching for the tennis analyst’s thoroughly respectable — that is, non-racist — character. He additionally adduced at least two other instances — one from an ESPN.com article (!) — in which the modifier “guerrilla” was employed by other tennis pundits to describe “aggressive, attacking playing style”.
To no practical avail, apparently; those facts didn’t stave off personal catastrophe for Mr. Adler. He’s not only on the outs at the world’s premiere sports network, his future in the entire industry has come crashing down around him, very possibly irretrievably. He’s now suing the Connecticut-based giant for wrongful termination, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and economic hardship; and claims the stress of being publicly and nationally tattooed a “racist” caused his ticker to go tilt; tribulations all based on a hysterical and palpable falsehood promoted by comically fragile race-paranoiacs, know-nothings and/or dolts who need to either educate themselves, grow up, toughen up, get a life — or perhaps all of the above.
This outrage calls to mind 1999’s “niggardly” hub-bub: Back around the turn of this new century, David Howard, an aide to then-mayor of Washington, D.C. Anthony A. Williams, used “niggardly” while discussing budget concerns. This evidently upset an African-American colleague who deciphered it as a bigoted slur on his co-worker’s part (Howard is white). A complaint was predictably lodged. The upshot of the episode? Howard was shortly pressured into resigning.
For those not in the know: “niggardly” is a perfectly serviceable word meaning: “stingy, miserly”; concepts altogether appropriate to exchanges involving financial matters, such as the one in which David Howard was involved when this welter originally flared up. The etymological roots of “niggardly” are Middle English and Scandinavian — they have no connection to the Latin “niger” from which issues “negro” or “n*gger” (a truly hideous racial slur, long in disrepute here in America.)
Moreover, this reportedly isn’t the only time this particular adjective has stirred up a hornet’s nest.
Thankfully, while Howard’s resignation was initially accepted, an internal investigation imposed some sanity on the clown-show and eventually he was reinstated into the mayor’s office. That said, the takeaway is that it never should have occurred at all: no racial pejorative had made an appearance in the first place.
Which circles us back to David Adler’s dilemma: his critics apparently are unaware “gorilla” and “guerrilla” are “homophones” (no, that has nothing to do with today’s favorite social issue; it means words that sound alike but have different definitions.) They must not have paid attention in high school English Class; or they nodded off too often during the vocabulary parts of SAT prep sessions.
Or they’re simply dunderheads with way too much influence.
Half-a-world away, twenty-five-million North Koreans quail under the obsessive cruelty of the demented, emotionally-stunted dictator who tyrannizes them. Because Kim Jong-un was the scion of a despotic father — a truly regrettable accident of history — he holds the entire nation in terror; and, by the way, keeps a good part of the rest of the planet on edge as well.
Meantime, here in reputedly more urbane, proudly more “enlightened” Western Civilization, adults cower under oppression of another stripe: fashionable but preposterous interpersonal guidelines which brook no challenge and actually eviscerate anyone going afield of them.
ESPN’s David Adler is only among the most recent casualties. He made the unforgivable mistake of citing colorful terminology — terminology that had been deployed without controversy in a decades-old Nike television ad featuring tennis superstars Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras; terminology from a “phrase … widely used by those who actually understood tennis vernacular and followed the sport closely”.
And so, an embattled sports broadcaster provides a worrying red-flag to the rest of us: Don’t even think about infringing upon whatever ludicrous, mercurial, misinformed, flavor-of-the-day social protocols cross your path. Expressing yourself? Forming opinions? Working? Raising your family, tending to your business? Head on a swivel! You’re to conduct yourself in a state of low-grade but cloying dread; held ransom to threats of emotional, relational, even vocational obliteration lest you smash into the disapproval of the sentries of political correctness — ill-informed or imbecilic though they be.
Who’s guilty of real wrongdoing here? First, the Times’ Ben Rothenberg and his ilk who’ve borne “false witness” against a genuinely innocent media figure (Exodus 20:16), upending his life, livelihood and reputation. Next, the cowardly bigs over at ESPN who ended up playing along with this fecklessness for appeasement’s and convenience’s sake. Finally, those who endorse this reign of trendy intimidation, in general.
This whole bunch ought to be ashamed of themselves. And if my saying that discombobulates the same kind of nincompoops who make a stink over “guerrilla”? I won’t be losing any sleep.