Robert E. Lee was a Confederate general whose statue in Charlottesville, and the decision to take it down, served as the flashpoint for violence earlier this month as white supremacists clashed with counter-protesters.
Robert Lee (not pictured) is an up-and-coming ESPN broadcaster who was scheduled to do play-by-play on the William & Mary-Virginia opener a week from Saturday in Charlottesville. The key word there is “was” as, as first noted by Outkick the Coverage, the network decided to move Lee off that game because of the site of the game and similarities in name to the leader of the Confederate forces 150 years ago. Specifically, Dan Wolken of USA Today wrote, “ESPN asked Lee if he would be more comfortable calling another game but gave him the option to stay. Lee chose to switch assignments, and ESPN accommodated him.”
Lee, the broadcaster, will now open with the Youngstown-Pittsburgh game.
The outing of the decision by Clay Travis, though, subsequently created a firestorm of criticism that the network never would’ve faced if they had just left Lee on the game, and forced them to issue a statement defending the move.
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.
On his show Wednesday morning, Dan Patrick broached the topic, saying that his former network may have had good intentions in pulling Lee but they didn’t necessarily need to make the change.