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ESPN Takes Fire For Switching Football Announcer Robert Lee From Virginia Game

ESPN Takes Fire For Switching Football Announcer Robert Lee From Virginia Game

ESPN just isn't whistling Dixie.

In a move that set off an outcry across media both social and mainstream, Walt Disney Co (NYSE: DIS) pulled a broadcaster, Robert Lee, off its sports wing's telecast of the Sept. 2 game between the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary.

White supremacists rallied in Charlottesville, home of the Virginia school and site of the game, on Aug. 12. Dozens were injured in violent clashes with counter-demonstrators and a 32-year-old woman was killed when a reputed neo-Nazi drove a car into a crowd protesting the rightist rally.

The alt-right radicals were protesting the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, leader of the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Related Link: Subtext Of Siege In Charlottesville


Sports Illustrated media columnist Richard Deitsch quoted ESPN senior director of communications Keri Potts as saying the company did not mandate that Lee switch games, and that the announcer was more comfortable not doing the assignment because of potential mockery.

“I requested an interview Robert Lee. ESPN says he's not talking at the moment. (Young guy. Can honestly understand why here.)" Deitsch said on Twitter Inc (NYSE: TWTR).

Some conservative commentators ridiculed the decision after it was broadcast on Fox News.

“Don’t tell ESPN about Lee Jeans, the official denim of confederate generals,” right-wing commentator Dana Loesch wrote on Twitter.

ESPN provided the following 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.”

Lee will instead call the Pittsburgh–Youngstown State game.

Image credit: terren in Virginia, Flickr

Posted-In: Charlottesville Civil Wat ESPN Robert E. LeePolitics Sports Media General Best of Benzinga


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