On Tuesday, ESPN pulled an Asian American announcer named Robert Lee from covering the season’s first home football game at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, “because of the coincidence of his name,”causing a social media backlash.
ESPN: "We removed announcer Robert Lee from VA game."
ESPN: "Because of his name."
— ✶ Sports Mockery ✶ (@sportsmockery) August 23, 2017
“We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name,” ESPN said in a statement. “In that moment it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play by play for a football game has become an issue.”
An ESPN executive has explained the network’s decision to pull Robert Lee, an Asian announcer, from the William & Mary-University of Virginia football game:
It was not over concern his name would offend people but because they did not want him to be “subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else.”
“Think about it,” the ESPN executive told the New York Magazine’s Yashar Ali. “Robert Lee comes to town to do a game in Charlottesville. The reaction to our switching a young, anonymous play by play guy for a streamed ACC game is off the charts – reasonable proof that the meme/joke possibility was real.”
Ali said the response was not a formal statement but a private email he was told he could share.
The executive said the network did not force Lee to switch games, but that it was “mutually agreed to.”
“When the protests in Charlottesville were happening, we raised with him the notion of switching games. Something we do all the time. We didn’t make him. We asked him. Eventually we mutually agreed to switch,” the email said.
“No biggie until someone leaked it to embarrass us and him. They got their way,” the email concluded. “That’s what happened.”
it's not a statement – it's a private email that I got permission to share without direct attribution https://t.co/467MRarsTJ
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) August 23, 2017
Maybe it’s karma, what were the chances that the news announcers name was the same as the very statue that put this whole politically correct fiasco in motion.
White nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members clashed with counterprotesters in Charlottesville earlier this month during protests of the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. A counterprotester, Heather Heyer, was killed and 19 others were injured when a man allegedly linked to neo-Nazi beliefs reportedly drove his car into a crowd.