Updated February 28, 4:05 PM CT
ESPN's Robert Lee (L), and confederate general Robert E. Lee (R)
Thursday, August 2017 08:24:34
Unfortunate timing of a name
Asian-American announcer Robert Lee (Not to be confused with long deceased confederate general Robert E. Lee) was scheduled to call the University of Virginia's home-opening football game against William and Mary on Sept. 2, but ESPN confirmed Tuesday that the recently promoted commentator, was reassigned to the Youngstown State versus Pittsburgh matchup the same day.
Lee is a part-time staffer who calls a dozen or so college football and basketball games a year.
The reason for the switch by ESPN management, per a statement, was "simply because of the coincidence of [Lee's] name," which was apparently too similar for ESPN's comfort to that of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, whose statue was the focal point behind the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville earlier this month.
Deadspin jumped on the story: "a sign of ESPN blindly bowing to political-correctness shock troops as a result of illogical liberal paranoia." "Is this even real life anymore?"
Clay Travis writes on the Outkick the Coverage website, adding, "I'm sorry you work for such an idiotic company, Robert Lee."
ESPN says its decision "as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding … felt right to all parties." USA Today also notes, per ESPN, that Lee was given the option to call the UVa game or switch, and Lee chose to switch.
Really, ESPN? You put that decision in the hands of a struggling, up-and-coming commentator who knows the consequences if he decides to stick it out and call the game? Really?
Lee (the announcer) should fight this all the way to the Supreme Court. Stand up to ESPN. Make them either demote you, or fire you (of which they'd probably do both. Either way, you'll sleep better at night knowing you did the right thing. And why would you even want to work for a company that pulled such a spineless move? It's not your fault your name is Robert Lee.
ESPN says there's no drama here. "We regret that who calls play by play for a football game has become an issue," the statement adds.
Friday, August 2017 08:25:10
Since the story was originally published ESPN president John Skipper has offered a clarification:
Skipper released his own statement to employees Wednesday, hoping to offer some clarity on the issue.
Given the amount of media attention being generated by one of the countless, routine decisions our local production teams make every day, I wanted to make sure you have the facts. There was never any concern - by anyone, at any level - that Robert Lee's name would offend anyone watching the Charlottesville game.Among our Charlotte production staff there was a question as to whether - in these divisive times - Robert's assignment might create a distraction, or even worse, expose him to social hectoring and trolling. Since Robert was their primary concern, they consulted with him directly. He expressed some personal trepidation about the assignment and, when offered the chance to do the Youngstown State/Pitt game instead, opted for that game - in part because he lives in Albany and would be able to get home to his family on Saturday evening.I'm disappointed that the good intentions of our Charlotte colleagues have been intentionally hijacked by someone with a personal agenda, and sincerely appreciate Robert's personal input and professionalism throughout this episode.
ESPN has refused to comment further.
Adolf Hitler, Gerry Sandusky, Charles Manson among other unfortunate names
Gerry Sandusky (above-left) can attest to the issue of having an unfortunately timed infamous name. Six years ago former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was indicted on 52 counts of child molestation.
"Look, it's reached a level of epidemic insanity when a guy named Robert Lee is taken off a broadcast at a Virginia football game because we're so hung up on the way people's names sound, the color of people's skin, what kind of food they're eating, whether they're Republican or Democrat, whether they're a blue state or a red state. We have so lost touch with the simple, conversational rules of humanity, of giving people their space to have their name, their preferences, their backgrounds, as long as those aren't hurting anybody".
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