ESPN has removed a sports commentator Robert Lee from its broadcast of the University of Virginia’s first football game next month because he has the same name as a Confederate general. Lee was set to cover the University of Virginia’s first game of the season against the College of William and Mary.
Lee, whose full-time job is at a payroll services company in Albany, started announcing games for ESPN and its other networks last fall. For the past 17 years, he has also announced men’s basketball games for Siena College in Albany.
The network said in a statement that the decision was made “as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name.”
“This wasn’t about offending anyone. It was about the reasonable possibility that because of his name he would be subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else. Think about it. Robert Lee comes to town to do a game in Charlottesville,” ESPN said in a statement that was tweeted late Tuesday night. “
“No politically correct efforts. No race issues. Just trying to be supportive of a young guy who felt it best to avoid thepotential zoo.”
This is completely reasonable https://t.co/iHf4IVV8la
— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 23, 2017
Despite mocking on Twitter, the network stood by its decision, saying Lee was involved with the decision-making process.The network switched Lee to a game in Pittsburgh on the same day. Still, people across the political spectrum criticized and mocked ESPN’s actions.
An Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville turned violent as white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members fought with counterprotesters during demonstrations against 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 drove his car into a crowd, according to the authorities.