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Terrible misunderstanding finally cleared up

An end to Doug Alder's nightmare.

United States' Venus Williams reaches for a backhand

United States' Venus Williams reaches for a backhand return to Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 15, 2019.  Photo Credit: AP/Mark Schiefelbein

Doug Adler’s long nightmare is finally over.

After two years of living hell, the tennis broadcaster who was falsely accused of racism finally cleared his name last week. This despite what has become all too common on Twitter: a rush-to-judgment mob mentality.

While an ESPN tennis analyst at the Australian Open in January 2017, as all-time great Venus Williams charged the net, Adler observed that she was using what is known in tennis as “the guerrilla effect,” as in guerrilla warfare, where sudden ambushes occur.

Viewers unfamiliar with the term “guerrilla” went crazy, hopping on Twitter to express their outrage — how dare he call Williams a gorilla! Tweets included, “My jaw dropped when I heard this! Disgusting!”

As the unfortunate tweets about the word “guerrilla” piled up, ESPN panicked. And when it was learned that one of the clueless tweets was a New York Times freelancer, Adler was toast (not breakfast toast, but . . . never mind).

ESPN threatened to fire Adler unless he apologized for something he didn’t do, and when he did apologize, the network fired him anyway. Didn’t he make a racist comment?

Uhm, no. He was using a homonym (and no, I am not attacking gay people). Homonyms are words that sound alike but have different meanings. A spouse on the phone describing the dinner his or her partner cooked as “It was fowl” might want to phrase it another way to avoid having a dish thrown at him or her.

What is foul is that Adler’s life for two years has been a nightmare.

Adler sued ESPN for wrongful termination on Feb. 14, 2017. Last week, ESPN finally settled the lawsuit and rehired Adler. But in the interim, the stress and abuse he experienced took their toll. According to tennis.life, he suffered emotional and physical issues, including a heart attack.

In his book “The Death of Expertise,” national security expert Tom Nichols says we have become “proud of not knowing things. Americans have reached a point where ignorance . . . is [considered] an actual virtue.” It wasn’t for Adler.

Meanwhile, ESPN executives tried to keep the settlement with Adler low key. Maybe ESPN was embarrassed.

Or maybe executives at ESPN know that the truth doesn’t matter anymore?

 Follow playwright Mike Vogel at @mikewrite7.

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