ESPN under fire for removal of announcer Robert Lee because of name

ESPN may have made a mountain out of a mole hill when they pre-emptively removed a sports announcer for fear of possible backlash over the announcer’s name.

Asian-American announcer Robert Lee was set to announce the University of Virginia’s home opener football game, but because of recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, ESPN and Lee decided it was best if the announcer switched games.

Earlier this month, violence broke out at a rally in Charlottesville where white nationalists were protesting the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The protesters marched through the campus of University of Virginia with torches. The next day, one person was killed when a car drove through a crowd counter-protesting the rally. 

An ESPN official told the website Outkick the Coverage that the move was made “simply because of the coincidence of his name.”

ESPN said they approached Lee as events in Charlottesville were unfolding and saw moving him to a different game as a way to avoid the sports anchor becoming a meme or punchline. The ESPN official said the change was not a mandate but a decision made by all parties.

The move had the opposite effect of its intentions, though. As word of the move leaked to reporters, the story quickly went viral as commentators criticized the move as an overreaction.

“It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play b play for a football game has become an issue,” an ESPN official said. 

Lee will announce the Youngstown versus Pitt game which will livestream on ESPN on September 2, the same day the University of Virginia v. William and Mary game.  

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