ESPN pulls announcer Robert Lee due to name similar to Confederate general

By Ray Downs   |   Aug. 23, 2017 at 12:53 AM
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Aug. 23 (UPI) -- ESPN pulled an announcer from a University of Virginia football game next month because his name is nearly identical to that of a well-known former Confederate general.

Commentator Robert Lee is Asian-American, but the similarity of his name to former Civil War Confederate Gen.Robert E. Lee -- in the wake of the Charlottesville violence -- was considered a controversial circumstance for the sports network.

"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," ESPN said in a statement. "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."

As a result, Lee will not call the University of Virginia's Sep. 2 game against William & Mary.

The news was first reported by Outkick the Coverage and confirmed by USA Today, which reported that the network is trying to prevent unnecessary ridicule and embarrassment to one of the network's new announcers.

Additionally, an anonymous ESPN executive said the network gave Lee the choice to call another game or stay on the crew for the University of Virginia game. Lee chose to call another game, the newspaper reported.

ESPN's actions were ridiculed on social media.

"Because people can't figure out which is a sports announcer and which one has been dead for 147 years?" tweeted Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi.

ESPN's decision to prevent potential controversy comes less than two weeks after violent protests erupted near the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Va., as a result of a clashes between protesters and counter-protesters over the removal of a statue honoring Robert E. Lee in the city.

There has also been an increase in calls for the removal of Confederate statues from other public spaces.

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