With the recent occurrence of so many events both globally and domestically, it’s no surprise the incidents in Charlottesville caused quite an uproar amongst many communities. While there were those who chose to send their prayers and spread love as a response during this troubling time, ESPN went with a slightly unorthodox choice.
Robert Lee, a sportscaster that just joined the ESPN team in 2016, was originally set to announce UVA’s home opening game against William & Mary. However, in a statement released by the network, they said they “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.”
They continue on to say, “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.”
A memo sent out by network president, John Skipper, was also shared outlining additional details regarding their decision. It said, “There was never any concern — by anyone, at any level — that Robert Lee’s name would offend anyone watching the Charlottesville game. I’m disappointed that the good intentions of our Charlotte colleagues have been intentionally hijacked by someone with a personal agenda, and sincerely appreciate Robert’s personal input and professionalism throughout this episode,”
A different, unnamed executive told reporters there was also concern from the network that Lee’s name would expose him to “memes and jokes.” They continued on to say, “No politically correct efforts. No race issues. Just trying to be supportive of a young guy who felt it best to avoid the potential zoo.”
In past months, ESPN has been the center of many discussions with some claiming them to be asserting a liberal agenda on viewers. Perhaps it’s time to leave politics aside and get back to what we all know and love: sports.