ESPN pulls Asian-American broadcaster from UVA game because he’s named Robert Lee
While the nation debates whether to take down statues of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate traitor, ESPN has taken the bold move of removing Robert Lee, an Asian-American broadcaster. As the Washington Post reported Wednesday:
The living Robert Lee, an ESPN broadcaster, was pulled from calling the University of Virginia home opener against William and Mary on Sept. 2 because he shares a name with the Confederate general at the center of unrest in Charlottesville.
“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,” Derek Volner, an ESPN spokesman, told The Washington Post in an emailed statement. “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,” he said.
Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch also tweeted that ESPN did not mandate Lee not call the game, and that he felt more comfortable not doing it.
Lee, the broadcaster, does not appear to be openly political in his work for the network, which is mostly for ESPN3 and ESPNU. He’s a Syracuse alum who lives in Albany with his family and speaks Mandarin Chinese in addition to English, according to his online resumé.
Whether any Virginia fans would have been triggered by hearing Lee’s name on air after the violent white supremacist marches outside the campus in Charlottesville seems incredibly unlikely. The protest had been sparked by the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.
So in this country, we’re either defending racist monuments, or completely overreacting in the wrong direction. We love addressing the appearances of being offensive but not the actual causes of hate in the first place.
Plus, aren’t there other sports broadcasters who deserve to be torn down first?