Tennis commentator Doug Adler has sued broadcaster ESPN, weeks after being taken off the air following a remark about Venus Williams at the Australian Open that some interpreted to be racist.
Adler, who has since apologised for how he spoke about Williams, has maintained that he was describing the African-American 13th seed's aggressive style of charging as the "guerilla effect" and not comparing her to a "gorilla."
Adler's lawyer, David Ring, says the comment was a "big nothing" until it hit Twitter.
"And then somehow on Twitter someone said he called Venus a gorilla," Ring told Reuters. "ESPN fires him the next day for something he never even said. Doug Adler lost his career, he lost his reputation.
"By ESPN firing him he was suddenly the guy fired for making a racist remark and it never happened."
Adler, who was a former college tennis player before turning to broadcasting, filed his lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday.
"Adler was wrongly terminated by ESPN after Adler described Venus Williams as using 'guerilla' tactics, a description that is commonly used in tennis to describe a form of aggressive play," the lawsuit states.
"ESPN bowed to pressure from those using social media, including Twitter, who mistakenly believed Adler used the word 'gorilla' to describe Venus Williams. ESPN wrongfully terminated Adler and has since caused other employees to shun Adler, causing Adler serious financial and emotional harm."
Neither ESPN nor Williams’s agent, Carlos Fleming, were immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina. Additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento. Editing by Steve Keating.)