ESPN has pulled Robert Lee off the play-by-play for the University of Virginia's first football game of the season (against William & Mary Sept. 2 in Chrlottesville), which ESPN is streaming, and reassigned him to another game.
The network said it was simply because of the "coincidence" of his name.
That move came in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, which was in part over the removal of a statute of Confederate General and Virginian Robert E. Lee.
ESPN's move drew coverage both nationally and internationally.
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ESPN said Lee was not pulled from the game or forced to switch to another game. At the end of the day, said a spokesperson, "this was a private conversation with an employee about comfort level out of respect for him and the situation."
An ESPN exec elaborated in an email to New York Magazine, saying: "This wasn't about offending anyone. It was about the reasonable possibility that because of his name he would be subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else."
He said the attention the move had already drawn on social media proved the point.
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ESPN said it asked Lee if he wanted to make the switch, and he agreed.
"No politically correct efforts, no race issues. Just trying to be supportive of a young guy who felt it best to avoid a potential zoo," said the ESPN exec in the email.
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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