In an unusually cautious move, sports channel ESPN has prevented one of its sports announcers from covering a football game in Virginia, because he has the same name as Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee.
Robert Lee, an Asian-American broadcaster, was reassigned from the University of Virginia football opener against the College of William & Mary next month.
When the hashtag #RobertLee began trending on Twitter, rumors surfaced that the sportscaster had been fired by ESPN. However, this turned out to be false. He was simply relocated to a different sports event.
ESPN executives decided to make the move following protests in Charlottesville earlier this month. Three people were killed and several others injured when white nationalists clashed with Antifa and other counterprotesters over the local government’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Several other historical monuments have been desecrated or removed across the US since the protest march.
General Robert Edward Lee commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War from 1862 until to 1865. He was a senior military adviser to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States. After the war, Lee was an enthusiastic supporter of President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction and Intersectional Friendship Program. His position on slavery is widely disputed and he is regarded by many of the radical left as a racist. He died following a stroke in 1870.
Robert Lee is an Asian-American sports presenter who works for ESPN. He was born in the twentieth century. Fact-checkers have so far been unable to identify a familial relationship between Mr. Lee and the Confederate General.
Journalist Yashar Ali reported that the ESPN decision was made “simply because of the coincidence of his name”. The network allegedly took the decision shortly after the Charlottesville event occurred, in order to avoid the possibility of the broadcaster’s name becoming a target for memes and jokes and “who knows what else”.
ESPN released the following statement:
“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. 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 sports network’s decision was met with harsh criticism on social media.
Several conservative commentators described the company as “pandering to snowflakes” in a wholly unnecessary and bizarre act of censorship.
Fox Sports reporter Clay Travis labeled it a “sign of how ridiculous and absurd society has become.”
— Scared Goat (@ScaredGoat) August 23, 2017