The Niggardly Principles apply to situations where a hyper-sensitive and ignorant individual takes an innocent statement as a slur because the individual doesn’t understand its meaning or context. These are all unforgivable scenarios that reward the foolish and punish the innocent (and articulate). They include the infamous episode in the District of Columbia government when a white executive was disciplined for using the word “niggardly,” ; the time the Los Angeles NAACP attacked Hallmark for an outer space themed “talking greeting card” that mentioned “black holes,” which the hair-trigger offended (and science education-deprived) heard as “black ‘ho’s.”
Then there were the students at at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, who demanded that the college rename “Lynch Memorial Hall,” named for Dr. Clyde A. Lynch, the LVC’s president during the Depression, because his name evoked lynchings to their tender ears. And who can forget, as much as one would like to, when ESPN suspended sportscaster Max Bretos after an Asian-American activist group complained that he had used the term “a chink in his armor” while talking about an NBA player of Chinese heritage ?
This story is worse than any of them.
ESPN sports announcer Doug Adler was calling an Australian Open tennis match last month between Venus Williams and Stefanie Voegele when he said,”You see Venus move in and put the guerilla effect on. Charging.” “Guerilla tennis” is a recognized phrase that refers to aggressive tennis. It has nothing to do with Great Apes.
New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg, however, cued by some Twitter social justice warriors, attacked Adler, tweeting himself,
“This is some appalling stuff. Horrifying that the Williams sisters remain subjected to it still in 2017.”
Rothenberg’s unfair and irresponsible tweet was re-tweeted 142 times, reaching thousands of Twitter users, and inevitably ESPN. Adler says his bosses assured him that they understood that he had used the word “guerilla,” not “gorilla,” and he thought the incident was finished. He was eating lunch in the ESPN lounge the next day when his boss dropped by his table, Adler told Fox News. The ESPN exec said the allegation that Adler used a racist slur to describe Venus Williams was “all over” the social media, so he was ordering Adler to apologize for his non-slur on the air. Adler followed the directive, and ESPN fired him anyway, not for being a racist, but for being falsely regarded as a racist because a lot of Americans have a pathetic vocabulary, are looking for any excuse to find racism in the culture whether it is there or not, and are eager to use the powers of the web and the mob to give their puny existence significance by destroying lives.
Writes Kyle Smith about this awful episode At Acculturated:
Whatever happened to the benefit of the doubt? How likely is it that a professional sports announcer, in 2017, would publicly refer to a black athlete as a “gorilla”? Why would anyone draw an inference that a gorilla was playing tennis? Even assuming Adler was the worst racist in the world, would he have been so stupid as to think he could get away with referring to a black person as an ape without consequence? Yet leaping to conclusions is rewarded by the pace of online communications: Be among the first to get angry, earn yourself lots of attention instantly, and if you happen to be completely wrong about what was said, no big deal, because everyone’s attention has moved on to the next thing.
1. As with Bretos, Adler’s real “crime” was being color blind. He saw nothing wrong or potentially inflammatory about using “guerilla tennis” in connection with a black tennis player, because he just saw her as a tennis player. I once thought this was the desired end result of civil rights activism, but I was wrong. No, the desired end result is to endow African-Americans with presumed victim status forever.
2. Adler should not have apologized, since he did nothing wrong. By apologizing, he appeared to validate the unfair and ignorant accusation.
3. ESPN’s unwillingness to stand by its innocent and unfairly maligned reporter shows its cowardice and venality. The capitulation further encourages social media and race-baiting mobs to do their worst, and gives them additional power and incentive to ruin careers and lives.
4. Rothenberg is the one who should have been disciplined.
Pointer: Amy Alcon