Aug. 23 (UPI) — ESPN pulled an announcer from an upcoming University of Virginia football game next month because the announcer’s name is Robert Lee.
ESPN’s Robert Lee is Asian-American. But the similarity of his name to the Confederate general Robert E. Lee in the wake of the Charlottesville protest, in which one person was killed by an alleged white supremacist, was considered a controversial circumstance for the cable channel. So Lee was removed from the University of Virginia’s Sep. 2 game against William Mary.
“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. In that moment it felt right to all parties,” ESPN said in a statement. “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.”
The news was first reported by Outkick the Coverage, a conservative sports news site that accuses ESPN of having a liberal bias.
USA Today confirmed the the removal of Lee from Saturday’s game and said the network as trying to prevent unnecessary ridicule and embarrassment to one of the network’s new announcers. In addition, an ESPN executive who wished to remain anonymous said the sports network gave Lee the choice to call another game or stay on the crew for the University of Virginia game.
Lee chose to call another game, the newspaper reported.
ESPN’s actions were ridiculed on social media.
“Because people can’t figure out which is a sports announcer and which one has been dead for 147 years?” tweeted Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi.
ESPN’s decision to prevent potential controversy comes less than two weeks after violent protests erupted near the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Va. as a result of a white supremacist rally sparking a confrontation between rally attendees and anti-racism protesters.
One woman was allegedly killed by a white supremacist during the protest.
There has also been an increase in calls for the removal of Confederate statues from public spaces, including those of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.