The Destruction Of Doug Adler : Guerillas, Gorillas, ESPN And The First Niggardly Principle

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.

Additional observations:

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

49 thoughts on “The Destruction Of Doug Adler : Guerillas, Gorillas, ESPN And The First Niggardly Principle

  1. My really smart husband says that is a chimp in the cartoon, neither a gorilla nor a guerilla, otherwise we thoroughly appreciate this post and have shared it.

  2. This is another episode showing that we are truly dealing with the dumbing down of America.

    Bully smearing tactics are working. Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated – or your livelihood will be destroyed.


        • “This is what happens when you post a story that’s a month old”

          See, this is your obnoxious streak. I know it’s a month old—I said so. Ethics stories don’t age: their messages continue. I recently wrote about Desmond Doss, whose ethics story is 70 years old. This isn’t a news site. Adler’s heart attack is moral luck. I’m sorry about it, but it doesn’t make what was done to him any worse, and if it spurred him on to a new and lucrative career as a speaker and author, it wouldn’t make what ESPN and twitter did any less wrong. All that matters is when I learn about the story, and since I follow women’s tennis only slightly and have given up on ESPN, this one took a while.

          • Jack,

            Obnoxious? This is where you and I always seem to go wrong. Not only was I not being obnoxious, I KNEW that you knew (I read the article, after all). I was simply providing an update with friendly ribbing. I’ll admit my humor is abrasive, but never mean-spirited. You always think I’m being a know-it-all jerk, when all I’m really after is a pointer/update credit one of these days.

            Speaking of which, I still owe you an apology, which I hope you’ll accept. Ageism isn’t an accusation I take lightly. Please advise on a good time to phone your office or the best email at which you can be reached (my account got wiped and I seem to have lost my old correspondence).

            This article was fantastic, and mostly because it didn’t involve politics. For those of us who try to find inner-peace by avoiding the daily media onslaught, it’s nice to hear anecdotal pieces that teach otherwise useful lessons.

              • Jack,

                Tone means everything, and you seem to read malice or snark into mine far more often than is appropriate (especially given how often I have repeatedly stated that I enjoy your writing and perspective, noted my own mental limitations, and continue to comment and ask questions. That said, I apologize for poor choice of diction.

                In other news, you still haven’t answered my question — I’m not letting it go. Please advise when you have a moment.


                • Neil Dorr wrote above, “Obnoxious? This is where you and I always seem to go wrong. Not only was I not being obnoxious, I KNEW that you knew (I read the article, after all). I was simply providing an update with friendly ribbing.”

                  Neil Dorr wrote here, “Tone means everything, and you seem to read malice or snark into mine far more often than is appropriate”

                  Here’s a personal observation from Zoltar, take it for what it’s worth.

                  Without direct visuals that help tremendously in showing how things are “supposed” to be perceived, it is kinda obnoxious to be Mr. Obvious.

                  Zoltar Speaks! has “Spoken”. 😉

  3. ESPN is in a tailspin financially. A near death spiral. Their execs are in a panic. I also suspect that they are terrified of offending very wealthy and influential black athletes along the lines of Lebron James, and Venus Williams, for that matter. Adler was probably scheduled to be whacked in the next major layoff of talent in Bristol anyway. There’s been a great deal of speculation that ESPN has drifted hard left as a means to keep itself relevant, a strategy that’s evidently had mixed results at best. Then there are Stephen A. Smith and Bomani Jones (and Spike Lee). These guys are arguably setting the tone at the Leader in Sports, although I think Stephen A. Smith is more than smart enough to know the difference between “guerrilla” and “gorilla.” But he may also know his audience doesn’t know the difference and is willing to let it go.

    • You think ESPN is hurting financially now, wait ’till Adler sues ’em. This as gotten almost farcical…not only are the two words spelled differently, they are pronounced differently, such that anyone with reasonable hearing (I’m not in that category) will know which you are using. This also assumes that the articulator does so properly.

      • dragin_dragon,
        Pronunciation, meaning, and spelling mean nothing to ignorant fools.

        During a euchre tournament a few years ago one of the players on the other team I was playing cheated – he reneged, I looked at him and simply said “you reneged” and he went fucking ballistic calling me every name in the book including a racist, it nearly came to blows, the room was in chaos; can you guess, he was a black guy under the age of 25. I just patently waited for the right moment and after I finally got the throngs of the other ignorant people that joined in his hateful chorus to sit down, shut up and listen to the explanation, I explained what had happened then I looked right at him, called him a ignorant fool, he stood up and stomped out the door, he left his partner sitting there, forfeited the game, and didn’t bother to offer an apology – although plenty of the other black people in the room did apologize. I half expected the humiliated fool be waiting by my car when I left but I guess he had enough common sense to know better or one of the other people in the tournament that left after getting eliminated told him to go away when they left.

        I didn’t win the tournament but we did raised a bunch of money to pay some bills for the neighborhood youth center.

        • Good for you!!! My guess he knew he reneged, and expected to get away with it for obvious reasons. Glad you called him on it.

          • dragin_dragon wrote, “My guess he knew he reneged, and expected to get away with it for obvious reasons.”

            I honestly don’t think he realized he reneged, I think he was just an ignorant fool playing a game that he truly didn’t understand very well (or maybe just side tracked) but he certainly didn’t know the lingo related to the game. The look on his face when I explained what had happened was priceless ignorance, and what made him stomp out the door was me publicly stating the absolute truth that he was an “ignorant fool”. His own ignorance, and some obvious bigotry on his part, caused him to humiliate himself in a very public way.

            He really should have been adult enough to stand up, eat some crow, and apologize to the entire room for his ignorance; maybe even physically kick himself in the ass to add a light-hearted moment of humor to end the whole thing would have been nice. I would have had absolutely no problem continuing to play the game with him, we all make mistakes.

            Sometimes we just have to publicly acknowledge out own failures, laugh at our own ignorance, and show others that we understand we are all human and that we really learned something from the experience, and then move on. This is a proven method of defusing tension and turn what could otherwise be humiliating moments into learning experiences for everyone; I use it routinely when communicating with younger inner city youth of all races and they really seem to appreciate the honest gesture.

            • Don’t expect an adult response from much of the younger ‘participation trophy’ crowd. They have been coddled their whole lives, they can do no wrong, and if they make a mistake it is someone else’s fault… or racism.

              Not all of the under 30 crowd, but a significant portion, even in Texas.

              • slickwilly wrote, “Don’t expect an adult response from much of the younger ‘participation trophy’ crowd”

                I completely agree about that limited portion of the population, meaning the ‘participation trophy’ subset; however, these individuals need to be taught even if they are already physically “adults”.

                I’m not sure how you would define a “significant portion” of the “under 30 crowd”?

                Me I’d define it as a very noticeable segment of the population because of their tendency to be very outspoken and very illogical. I do think it’s a low, but ever growing, segment of the population that is still low enough percentage to manage the idiocy when handled logically and intelligently. These re not individuals that should be ignored and maybe they’ll get it eventually, they need to be confronted and taught.

                • …it’s a low, but ever growing, segment of the population…

                  As one with teachers all over the family tree, going back almost 50 years, I have watched and discussed the changes in society vis-a-vi public education (in Texas) over time with those who worked in schools at all levels through college.

                  There seem to be more ‘privileged’ kids now than before (but they always existed as a very small minority) whose parents threw money at them instead of time and interest. As long as the kids were happy, the parents were not bothered, and thus ‘participation trophies’ and such got popular. These kids never get told ‘no,’ never have to heal from one of life’s numerous bumps and abrasions, and therefore never learned to have empathy nor resiliency.

                  These combine with the segment of the population you refer to above to make the problem larger (in numbers, and impact) than you would think. Not yet a majority, in Texas at least, but growing at an ever increasing rate the past few years.

                  I pity the teachers (and I live with one) who are afraid to offend a parent by reporting the “perfect little angel’s” latest misdeed, upon pain of possible job and pension loss. (I know of a school district that does not allow a student to flunk… writing a name on an assignment guarantees a passing grade. Butts in seats are how districts are paid, here)

                  I agree with the ‘confronted and taught’ idea in principle, but how do you put that into practice, when doing so can destroy your ability to put food on the table for your family?

                  • slickwilly wrote, “I know of a school district that does not allow a student to flunk… writing a name on an assignment guarantees a passing grade. Butts in seats are how districts are paid, here”

                    Holy Shit! That is deliberately dumbing down students! Where the hell are the responsible adults in the district publicly denouncing and protesting this completely illogical policy?

                    slickwilly wrote, “I agree with the ‘confronted and taught’ idea in principle, but how do you put that into practice, when doing so can destroy your ability to put food on the table for your family?”

                    Have we become a society of wimps unwilling to stand up for our convictions? At some point responsible adults must unite and take a stand regardless of the possibility of negative consequences. Even ignorant people know that there is power in numbers; so choose your battle, gain numerical support, focus on right and wrong, be on the side of right, and stand up for your convictions.

                    • Have we become a society of wimps unwilling to stand up for our convictions?

                      Short answer: yes

                      In many cases, there are no convictions to stand up for.

                      We are seeing the Republic die of apathy. There was some awakening when Trump was elected, but the majority of ‘normal’ folks I interact with each day (work and socially) just cannot be bothered to understand the issues, much less get engaged enough to have an opinion at all. If they DO have an opinion, it was usually delivered to them via meme or the MSM, and they cannot defend it.

                      Americans as a society have had things good for too many generations now for people to believe in an existential threat unless and until it directly impacts their lives. We live atop a thin veneer of civil behavior and mistakenly believe this crust is miles deep and the natural order of things.

                      Most people have less than two weeks of food in their houses, despite FEMA and others’ warnings to be prepared in case of food chain disruption. Grocery stores have less than two days of normal sales volume on the shelves, and little in the back storeroom many no longer have. Witness the empty shelves for the over-hyped east coast blizzard not long ago. Panic buying due to lack of foresight. (Has bad weather never visited these places before? Have Hurricanes never threatened the Gulf Coast before, that people empty store at the last minute? Has the Mississippi never flooded before?)

                      Starving people care little about civility, as Katrina and other emergencies have demonstrated.

                      This bleeds through to every aspect of society. This is how we have the backward views on grades and how we value public education. Priorities are disconnected from reality to the point ‘lies are truth, and truth is regarded as a lie.’ I read that last one somewhere…

                      Zoltar, the rot is prevalent, even here in the middle of Texas. It must be Trump’s fault.

    • ESPN is in a tailspin financially. A near death spiral. Their execs are in a panic…

      GOOD! Tired of the left forcing their crap into every aspect of our lives. I vote with my dollars, and those who take my money then slap my face (movie stars, directors and sports stars) do not profit on me.

      I know, it is a small thing, but I control 5 tickets plus food for every movie we see, and Matt, Liam, and their ilk kill the movie for our family. More and more folks are thinking like I am, and ESPN is feeling the wrath of preaching/demonizing those who pay their livelihood.

  4. This is, by the way, yet another reason why Trump won.

    You hit the nail on the head when you wrote: “I thought [colourblindness] 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.” I’ve caught myself no fewer than three times this last year thinking about something I just said with a measure of abject horror: “Jesus Jeff… All it would take is for one snowflake to take that the wrong way and your ass if going to get pulled in front of HR.”

    This….linguistic insecurity…. Isn’t healthy for the long term relationship people have with other people. People, especially professionals, and especially professionals in fields where special effort is being made to wedge minorities or women into diversity quotas, have to walk on eggshells, not because they’re closeted bigots who slipped into the disinfecting light of day, but because someone misspoke, someone listening misinterprets some patois, or someone just plain mishears something.

    It’s counterproductive. In situations where new people are brought into the office, I sometimes wonder if my behaviour towards them, either in my introduction of the day to day differs because I subconsciously go out of my way to sanitise the interactions I have with new employees, and especially minority ones. Is it bigotry to treat certain people better than you treat the average person out of job insecurity?

    Great example… Mamere (My great grandmother) didn’t speak a word of English, and so my family had to learn french, or more accurately… at least enough to get by with her. Funny thing… Language, It’s not like a bike. if you don’t use it, you lose it, and so my proficiency was waned significantly since her death, but every now and again I’ll slip up and ask “C’est que ce?” (What?) or huff “accélérer vous!” (Hurry up!). Imagine my surprise last summer when after having asked my buddy “C’est que?” Someone approached me and gave me *HELL* for “appropriating” Spanish. I swore at him in French (making up fully half of what I was saying, although I’m sure it sounded appropriately eviscerating.) until I felt better. French is an expressive language, almost anything sounds like a four letter word if you put the right inflection on it… “Flacon du mais!” (cornflakes),

    Regardless. Enter Trump, the poorly spoken quasi-politician who gives no fucks, no apologies, who can brag about grabbin’ ’em by the pussy and still get the best job in America. He was the better answer for people who are sick of walking on eggshells, scared of losing their livelihood to the whim of a mob. Perhaps not a GOOD answer, because the pendulum seems to have swung too far, but an inevitability when you consider the path from there to here.

  5. I like to call these things Twitch Hunts. Someone promotes their being offended online and effectively hunts down, via social media mob, the offender.

    Venus should speak up as she surely knows what has happened to Adler. The poor guy has had a heart attack over this.

    ESPN is trying to serve a few different masters including the social justice set that has invaded sports of late.

    This may sound conspiracy theory but Adler is a Jew. The Black Lives Matter movement, that several athletes claim to support, is in support of BDS (Boycott Divestments Sanctions) which is an anti-Israel movement. Some areas and colleges have even banned BDS activities because of the possible antisemitism it could engender (there seems to be on college campuses a correlation between BDS related groups & antisemitism). I’m not saying ESPN is anti Jewish! I am saying there is in current politics an unsettling pro-Palestinian blacks vs. pro-Zionist Jews dynamic happening and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Adler was in some way a sacrifice on the alter of anti-Zionism.

  6. Jack, well deserved defense of Doug Adler, and most justified condemnation of ESPN. Hope you sent this post to them.

  7. This is an awful story and demonstrates how these news networks have turned into PC Stalinists. I hope Ben Rottenberg gets sued big time as well as ESPN.

    • I don’t know who owes me the keyboard, now, you, YouTube or the guys making the video. IT IS HILARIOUS! Thanks, I needed the laugh.

  8. I believe that you are including two different types of incidents under the niggardly principle. The first type is the one that suggested the name. In that case an individual who truly had no idea of what the word meant and reacted to it because of the sound and what he interpreted it to mean. I think the Lynch Memorial Hall incident and probably the Black Hole incident also fall into that group. They result from lack of education and being primed to be offended by something. They are not totally benign but for the most part they are not orchestrated with the primary aim of causing serious harm to a specific person.

    The incidents like those with Adler and Bretos are malevolent and those leading them know exactly what they are doing. They all follow pretty much the same course. They begin with a fairly prominent Progressive like Rothenberg deliberately misrepresenting something the target said as indicating that the target is racist, homophobic, or some other minority phobic and then making an inflammatory tweet about it.

    This tweet is then picked up by the Progressive minions and retweeted until it gains enough momentum that it can be used to put pressure on the intended target, typically by aiming at their means of livelihood. The target’s employer is usually a Progressive company and will immediately take action to protect themselves by demanding an apology from the target. The fact that the target has nothing to apologize for is immaterial. The purpose is not to get an apology, it is to get it on record that the target is guilty of the sin he or she is accused of. A number 1 on the Apology Scale will be of no benefit to the target. They are the defendant in a show trial and for a show trial to work there has to be a confession. Now the resignation or firing can take place.

    Another example would be Brendan Eich forced to resign as CEO of Mozilla because of his private donation to a cause the Progressives don’t approve of. Occasionally, the target because of their situation is not totally deprived of their livelihood but punished in some other fashion. For example, the vile attack on Steve Martin leading to him taking down his obviously very heart felt remembrance of Carrie Fisher. One can easily find other examples. The exact details vary but the modus operandi remains the same. I apologize for the repeated use of the word Progressive but I am not sure of the best word to identify that population.

    You say, ”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.” Attacks like those on Adler and Bretos were made by intelligent people, in Adler’s case a sports writer who damn well knows what words mean and the context, who make deliberate statements to raise a mob with the specific goal of punishing the target in some fashion. There needs to be another term to describe malicious attacks such as these.

    • In the first class of offenses (out of ignorance) all you would require is 5 seconds of someone educating the offended person/s and the matter would b resolved. Which doesn’t seem to be how this played out.

      Inexplicably popular YouTube money-maker PewDiePie was a victim of fake, completely-out-of context accusations of racism by some major news outlets, and the fact that other outlets pointed out the falsehood of the accusations, indisputably, didn’t seem to make a difference. The original accusers (an other web news hubs who took the bait of the original rumor) were all like, “yeah, we still think he’s probably a racist.”

      It’s the sunk cost fallacy and cognitive dissonance again, making it easier to double down on a foolish assertion rather than admit being wrong (behold the lengths people are going to to continue to victimize that poor convenience store owner in Ferguson, for example, rather than give up on the Michael Brown false narrative that so many of them fell for.)

  9. Never, NEVER, apologize to the crybullies. They do not play by the same rules as the decent common folk, and the compassion of their enemies is just another weakness for them to exploit.

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