It was a story too dumb to be real: reports yesterday emerged from ESPN critic Clay Travis at Outkick the Coverage that ESPN had pulled an Asian announcer named Robert Lee off a University of Virginia college football game to avoid offending idiots. I have to admit, I didn’t think it could be true. How unbelievably stupid do you have to be to think that someone whose name is similar to a Confederate general – albeit absent the all-important middle initial – would lead to triggering and upset viewers if he called a Charlottesville-based sporting event.
Apparently, this stupid: they really did pull the announcer from the Virginia football game because his name is ‘Robert Lee.’ ESPN’s 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.” More here.
I cannot fathom how incredibly stupid you have to be to think this is an issue. Additional reporting today suggests that ESPN brought this up internally, weighed it in discussions with Lee, and ultimately decided to switch him to a presumably inoffensive Pittsburgh game instead. But he’s still going to be right there, with that troublesome name, and since announcers aren’t onscreen for most of the games, you’ll be hearing that name without the knowledge that he’s a pleasant-looking Asian fellow instead of a white-bearded steel-eyed gray-clad racist monster on a horse. As Iowahawk notes:
Would someone have made a guy named Robert Lee calling a UVA game a meme of some kind? Potentially, but it wouldn’t have lasted more than a day, and ESPN’s real concern as their statement and reporting show was “insensitivity” more than walking into a joke. Except now they are the joke – they are an absolute laughingstock, and their defenders have been totally undermined by a move so stupid that it will be an item of ridicule for months to come.
Of course, now the search is on for other Civil War figures with names similar to those announcers who irritate the fans. I can inform you I have found a Confederate of note named John Buck, but not a Joseph Buck, so you should keep looking. This is an incredibly stupid age, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to get something good out of it. Happy hunting!