In the aftermath of the tragedy in Charlottesville and the racial/social anxieties and tension that led to it, it would make sense that a big media company like ESPN would try to be a bit sensitive towards how it’s coming across.
That makes sense because ESPN does play a role in shaping the cultural experience here in the United States. What doesn’t make sense is removing a play-by-play announcer from a game down in Virginia because his name is Robert Lee.
His name isn’t Robert E. Lee, mind you, which would be the name of the Confederate general who’s known by the “E” in the saying of his name as a way to distinguish who he is. The announcer’s name is simply Robert Lee.
No “E’s” anywhere.
That’s apparently not good enough in the eyes of ESPN brass because they decided to pull him from that contest and re-assign him to a different game.
Clay Travis of Outkick The Coverage reported the story, going out of his way multiple times to point out the fact that Lee is of Asian descent. Frankly, that doesn’t matter at all in this discussion, though it’s quite like Travis to harp on that point. That’s not the subject of this article, though. What is, is Travis’ reporting:
“In a story that seems made for The Onion, but is actually true, according to multiple Outkick fans inside ESPN MSESPN decided to pull an Asian college football announcer named Robert Lee off the William and Mary at University of Virginia college football game because they were concerned that having an ASIAN FOOTBALL ANNOUNCER NAMED ROBERT LEE would be offensive to some viewers.
Did I mention that Robert Lee is Asian?”
At the time of the article, it was just a report, but ESPN has since come out to explain their ideology here, basically saying that they were afraid of the memes that would come out of having Robert Lee call the game.
“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.”
Dan Wolken of USA Today provided a bit more coverage into what ESPN was thinking, and the thought process may shock you:
So here we are in 2017 with everything else going on in our country and around the world, and ESPN is afraid of starting a meme.
And yet, by doing that, ESPN has basically “memed” itself.