Not-the-Onion: Announcer Robert Lee is persona non grata for ESPN college football coverage

Not-the-Onion: Announcer Robert Lee is persona non grata for ESPN college football coverage
Another Cavalier play bites the dust in UVA's rivalry loss to Virginia Tech in 2016. (Image: Screen grab of ESPN video, YouTube)

If you weren’t on Twitter on Tuesday evening, you may have missed this one.

You’ll want it to not be true.  It can’t be, right?  Nobody could be this stupid.  But ESPN admits they did it.

On Tuesday afternoon, a report burst forth from Outkick the Coverage that ESPN had decided to pull a sports announcer from an upcoming assignment to cover University of Virginia football.  The reason: the announcer’s name is Robert Lee.

The kicker: he’s Asian.

To avoid offending left wing idiots Robert Lee, the Asian college football announcer, not the Confederate General who died in 1870 and shares a name with him, was switched to the Youngstown State at Pittsburgh game and Dave Weekley will now call the William and Mary at University of Virginia game.

Trigger warning: this man’s name is Robert Lee. (Image: Video screen grab via Fox News)

There was a mighty back-and-forth on Twitter for several hours as journos and blog-wahs expressed varying degrees of hilarity, delight, skepticism, and full-blown disbelief.

Then ESPN delivered the goods, with an explanation of their move.  I.e., confirmation that they really, no kidding, did indeed take Mr. Lee off the Wahoo game because of his name.

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.

Pro tip: there’s a way to work on that regret.  ESPN exercises control over who calls play by play for ESPN.  So it’s really their call whether Being Robert Lee has to become an issue, and limit a football announcer’s career options.

Outkick the Coverage’s Clay Travis isn’t having it:

But, seriously, is there anything more pathetic than ESPN believing people would be offended by an Asian guy named Robert Lee sharing a name with Robert E. Lee and calling a football game? Aside from some hysterical photoshops and Internet memes which would make everyone with a functional brain laugh — Robert E. Lee pulling out all the stops to stay in Charlottesville now! — what was the big fear here? Does ESPN really believe people are this dumb or that having an Asian announcer named Robert Lee is too offensive for the average TV viewer to handle?

Well.  The game is taking place in Charlottesville.  And you do have to look at who’s been getting elected to local office there, and what their main political interest is (to wit: getting rid of all traces of Robert E. Lee).  There might actually be people who’d get their noses out of joint.

But somehow, this ESPN move seems just too silly – as noted, with some annoyance, by veteran reporter Jonathan Martin, go-to voice of the P.C. left at the New York Times, CNN, and Politico, among others.

“ESPN yanks an Asian-American named Robert Lee from calling UVa opener,” he lamented on Twitter; “hands the right a gift on PC culture fight”.

It does seem irresponsible of ESPN, to turn an exemplary instance of sensitivity-triangulation into such a laughingstock.

Isn’t this what trigger warnings are for?  Unwary sports viewers could be prepared to cope as necessary — even flee to a safe space — with a special announcement that Robert Lee, the fine professional calling the William and Mary-UVA game, is not a 210-year-old Confederate general, but rather is a Person of Asian-ness born many years after the Civil War.

If ESPN could publish certification that Mr. Lee had no slave-owning ancestors, that would probably help.  I think we could set Robert Lee in platinum if it could be demonstrated that he had an ancestor who, say, worked on railroad construction out West in the 19th century, or something similarly indicative of oppression and abuse at the hands of white people.  Oppression in one of his ancestors’ foreign homelands might also be suitable for that purpose.

Dig far enough into the matter, and ESPN could probably make Robert Lee, the announcer of Asian-ness, such a sympathetic figure that Charlottesville would have to throw him a parade before letting him do a lick of work in the broadcasters’ booth.

Meanwhile, Twitter is alive with the sound of witty Tweeps unearthing previously unknown Confederate generals named Skip Bayless, Joe Buck, and Keith Olbermann.  Some people just don’t understand when things have to be taken seriously.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


Commenting Policy

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.

You may use HTML in your comments. Feel free to review the full list of allowed HTML here.