Once upon a time, not long ago — just before the world went nuts — he’d have spent this week in Washington, the volunteer instructor for the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation, serving poor black kids.
He coached these kids for three consecutive summers, neither asking for or receiving a dime. An All-American at USC, he was in the area as the in-stadium radio voice of the men’s and women’s Citi Open.
And then, 5 ¹/₂ years ago, based on a mad rush to politically correct (mis)judgment, ESPN fired Doug Adler as a racist.
The Citi Open, though not an ESPN event, was once a steady gig for Adler. But the stain of “racist,” no matter how preposterously applied, is not easily, if ever, removed. Adler, once a busy man over the tennis broadcasting landscape, now can’t land a gig nor catch a break — as if having the truth as your defense is catching a break, a matter of luck.
I’m not giving up on this one, only because I can’t. In my 40 years writing this column, I’ve never encountered such a hideous miscarriage of justice and gutless abandonment of common sense.
As you might by now know, Adler, now 64, was fired on the spot by ESPN as he worked his ninth Australian Open as an analyst, falsely accused by a reckless New York Times stringer armed with a Twitter account that ID’d him as a Times correspondent. It became an overnight “fact” that Adler — for no known reason — racially degraded Venus Williams by calling her “a gorilla.”
So Ben Rothenberg, covering the 2017 Australian Open for The Times, made a splash. He tweeted that Adler said what he never did.
Adler had complimented Williams, saying that by rushing the net she’d surprised her opponent with the “guerrilla effect – charging,” a common tennis expression. He did not call her “a gorilla.” Still, ESPN freaked out — “Oh, my gawd, The New York Times may claim we’re racist! Off with his head! Immediately!”
So ESPN rushed to fire Adler — to hell with facts, the truth and his long, unimpeachable service to ESPN. Adler, who soon suffered a heart attack, lost his career and reputation to a lie.
In an email to me last year, Rothenberg insisted that Adler called Williams “a gorilla,” though he was unable to explain why. Yet, he wrote, “Only Doug will ever know what he meant to say there.”
Oh, really? But Rothenberg had already determined and disseminated his conviction that Adler meant to call her a gorilla!
As for a “guerrilla” warfare tactic by suddenly attacking the net, Rothenberg wrote me, “It is not, as you’ve erroneously written, a regularly spoken term in tennis whatsoever. It’s just not.”
Rothenberg must’ve missed — or ignored — an entire 1995 Nike ad campaign in which Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi play “guerrilla tennis.”
And late NYC Mayor David Dinkins, a tennis freak, in a 2018 interview with NBC News claimed he knows “guerrilla” as a common and useful tennis term. Interviewed by Matt Lauer, Dinkins shook his head in disbelief at what had befallen Adler.
But the kicker came when Rothenberg wrote me that “Gorillas, however, do charge.” Not sure if he meant gorillas charge while playing tennis, only that they “charge.” According to Rothenberg, this was proof Adler called Williams a gorilla — even if he admittedly didn’t know what Adler meant.
So, as no one — not Venus or Serena Williams, anyone from the tennis world including media, sponsors, Nike, current and past players, execs at ESPN, Disney and The Times — has stood up, or even leaned slightly forward, to rescue this man from Devils Island. Race issue? Even a nonsensical one? Run for your life!
And I’m tired of ESPN staffers whispering to me that they agree; ESPN did Adler dirty. Don’t tell me, tell your boss, Jimmy Pitaro.
Now Adler approaches the sixth year of his life sentence, convicted, overnight, as a racist by a mad rush to injustice then tacitly approved by the cowardly silent.
Venus Williams is scheduled to play in D.C. this week. Though a proponent of civil rights and racial justice, she already spoke to this issue: She’s not interested.
Yep, let him rot.
This week Adler used to be in D.C., volunteering to coach poor black kids then working the in house-broadcasts. He figured the goodwill and high regard he’d engendered at the Citi tournament eventually would be worth something, the way he figured the truth would eventually free him.
He was wrong. You can’t shame the shameless.
QB Kyler is required, under contract, to hit books
Ever feel yourself drifting far, far away?
Rays shortstop Wander Franco this week claimed to have had $650,000 in jewelry stolen from his Rolls Royce while it was parked overnight in a hotel lot.
That inspired reader Mike Natale of Lake Worth, Fla., to a vow: “I will never leave $650,000 in jewelry in my Buick LaCrosse overnight ever again!”
Now we’ve reached the stage where an NFL QB making $230 million can’t be expected to spend the week preparing for the next game. Thus the Cardinals Kyler Murray, by contract, now must spend four hours a week in independent game film study.
YES now has two worth-your-time Yankees sideshows.
“Homegrown” has for several years been a fun up-close-and-personal study of Yankees minor leaguers and coaches at work, play and even grocery shopping. Simple but compelling — exactly the way NFL pregame shows ain’t.
This week’s edition of the “The Feed,” with Matt Stucko interviewing reliever Lucas Luetge, was particularly enjoyable. Luetge shared videos of his kids — one, a toddler, electric-shaving Dad’s head bald. Luetge, his head otherwise in all the right places, made a fan of this viewer.
Takes some discipline to K that much
Seeing new Met Daniel Vogelbach hanging over the dugout railing is like watching the late Dan Blocker, as Hoss Cartwright, lean over the corral fence.
Then we heard from Pete Alonso, who marveled at Vogelbach’s “plate discipline.” Unless Alonso was referencing dinner-plate discipline. Voeglbach, another all-or-nothing batter, has struck out in 30 percent of his MLB at-bats. As of Friday, he struck out three times in his six at-bats as a Met.
Oh, well, don’t forget to visit our Bargain Basement, conveniently located on the third floor.
Reader Bob Franzese notes that Sunday, when Gil Hodges was inducted into the Hall of Fame, a horse named Johnny Podres, for Hodges’ Brooklyn and L.A. teammate, won the fifth at Del Mar.
Why would Charles Barkley think the Saudi golf tour would throw big money at him if not to be its official on-air clown?
Carlos Beltran and Cameron Maybin would be far batter on YES if they learned to take deep breaths — the kind that last, oh, half an inning.
There was never a shortage of reasons why those who worked for King of Sleaze Vince McMahon chose not to include that employment in their résumés and bios.
So MLB, under Rob Manfred, and the MLBPA, perhaps as a fundraiser for destitute multimillionaire players and team owners, will sell more of their uniforms to display corporate messages. That conspicuous Nike logo to suddenly appear on all uniforms left room for more.
New stat coming: Career leaders in “Manfred RBIs” — runners driven in after automatically placed at second base.
Rough week for kids as we lost Choco Taco, discontinued by Klondike. I’d grow excited when the music on the ice cream truck signaled its approach. Until my dad, tight with 15 cents, said, “No, son, they play that music when they’re out of ice cream.”