The sports announcer Robert Lee, best known prior to Tuesday night as the radio and television play by play voice of the Siena College (Loudonville, N.Y.) men’s basketball program, has found himself at the center of a major sports controversy on perceived political correctness run amok. In what ESPN says was a joint decision between the broadcaster and the company, Lee was removed from broadcasting Virginia’s season-opening football game on Sept. 2 against William & Mary because of the similarity of his name to the Confederate general Robert E. Lee. He was re-assigned to call Youngstown State at Pittsburgh on ESPN3 on the same day.
These are probably some of the reasons that Virginia's home opener Sept. 2 isn't even televised but rather is relegated to an online channel called ACC Network Extra, which viewers can access on the ESPN app.
Here's where I'm going: Hardly anyone would have noticed or cared if the play-by-play announcer for Virginia vs. William & Mary was a guy who happens to be named Robert Lee — you know, like the Confederate general whose statue in Charlottesville became a rallying point for white supremacists this month.
Yet ESPN felt compelled to reassign Lee, to avoid a controversy that almost certainly would not have materialized. In making the move, ESPN created an actual controversy, practically inviting conservatives to accuse the network of catering to snowflakes.“You've got to be kidding me!” Brian Kilmeade exclaimed, after co-host Steve Doocy read news of the decision by “very politically correct” ESPN. “The fact that his name is Robert Lee? You had to move him out to Youngstown, Ohio, because you thought it would inflame the people of Charlottesville? What an insult it is to the people of Charlottesville or those people protesting on either side that you think an Asian American's name, Robert Lee, would set people off because, minus the 'E,' it reminds you of a Confederate general.”
“If you watched the game and you heard the announcer call himself Robert Lee, would you even think anything of it?” Ainsley Earhardt chimed in.
Others who have called out ESPN include counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels.