ESPN decided to remove Asian sports announcer, Robert Lee from a football event at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, because his name was too similar to that of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
ESPN admitted as much in a shocking press release stating, “Lee was removed from the game, simply because of the coincidence of his name,” the network stated. It is now clearly evident that you no longer need to even be white to be haunted by accusations of, “white supremacy.”
On Tuesday, the network announced that considering the recent events in Charlottesville, Lee, a part-time anchor for the network, would be barred from covering the September 2nd football match at the University of Virginia (UVA).
A statement posted on the network’s blog that cover news related to college football read, “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.”
The announced from the network become a subject severe criticism and mockery across social media. And, since ESPN’s press release was so shocking, it had many speculating that something deeper was afoot. Twitter was alight with rumors, “ESPN just fired sports caster because his name is Robert lee. And he is Asian and this is not a joke.” While, Lee was only forced to commentate another game elsewhere, a blogger Clay Travis highlighted that Lee was Asian and thus, his removal didn’t quite make much sense. He stated, “Did I mention that Robert Lee is Asian?”
Responding to the social media backlash, ESPN released 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.”
ESPN President John Skipper also sent an internal memo to his employees, which was swiftly leaked. “There was never any concern — by anyone, at any level — that Robert Lee’s name would offend anyone watching the Charlottesville game.” And that, “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.”
Travis ruthlessly mocked ESPN, asking, “Is there anything more pathetic than ESPN believing people would be offended by an Asian guy named Robert Lee sharing a name with Robert E. Lee and calling a football game? Aside from some hysterical photoshops and Internet memes which would make everyone with a functional brain laugh — Robert E. Lee pulling out all the stops to stay in Charlottesville now! — what was the big fear here? Does ESPN really believe people are this dumb or that having an Asian announcer named Robert Lee is too offensive for the average TV viewer to handle?”