ESPN Commentator Clarifies Comments About Venus Williams, Said He Meant ‘Guerilla’ Not ‘Gorilla’

Venus Williams (@WTA Twitter)

An ESPN commentator has apologized for a remark he made about tennis player Venus  Williams that led Twitter to demand he be fired. So far, the network has not done so, but it has removed him from further broadcasts.

Doug Adler found himself in hot water over his description of Williams’ assertive playing style as she was on her way to beating Stefanie Voegele in the second round of the Australian Open Wednesday, Jan. 18.

“[Voegele] misses a first serve and Venus is all over her,” Adler said. “You see Venus move in and put the guerilla effect on. Charging.”

The former tennis player clarified on Thursday, Jan. 19, that he was likening Williams’ approach to “guerilla” tactics, according to the Associated Press. He also said he “simply and inadvertently chose the wrong word to describe her play.”

A statement issued to the AP by ESPN acknowledged the error but later revoked Adler’s reporting duties.

“During an Australian Open stream on ESPN3, Doug Adler should have been more careful in his word selection. He apologized and we have removed him from his remaining assignments,” the statement read.

Williams emerged with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Voegele, but many viewers were stuck on Adler seeming to compare the seven-time Grand Slam winner to a primate. They called for him to lose his job because of it.

Other viewers felt Adler meant “guerilla,” not “gorilla.”

The Williams sisters are no strangers to this type of controversy. In 2012, when Serena Williams won her fifth Wimbledon title, an ESPN sportswriter originally titled his headline, “Serena Rides Savage Serve to Title” before it was changed to “Serena Rides Huge Serve To Title.”

Both Venus and Serena Williams were compared to men in 2014 by Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev. He deemed the championship-winning duo the “Williams brothers,” according to Atlanta Black Star.

“I thought [his comments] were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time,” Serena said at the time. “I thought they were in a way bullying.

“I think a lot of people weren’t happy as well … but the WTA and the USTA did a wonderful job of making sure that in this day and age … for someone with his power, it’s really unacceptable to make such bullying remarks,” Serena added, noting the $25,000 fine imposed on Tarpischev by the WTA.


Back to top