ESPN Pulls Announcer Robert Lee From University of Virginia Football Game

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The Virginia Cavaliers play in Charlottesville

The sports network pulled the Asian-American commentator "simply because of the coincidence of his name" with Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

Hoping to avoid controversy, ESPN pulled an announcer from an upcoming University of Virginia Cavaliers college football game because his name is Robert Lee, Buzzfeed reported on Tuesday

ESPN's Lee, an Asian-American, was scheduled to announce the Cavalier's opening home game of the season against William & Mary College at Charlottesville's Scott Stadium on Sept. 2 but has been moved given the similarity of his name with Confederate general Robert E. Lee, whose statues were the flashpoint of recent violent protests in the city that left one person dead. 

In a statement, ESPN said that they had "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." 

"There was never any concern - by anyone, at any level -- that Robert Lee's name would offend anyone watching the Charlottesville game," ESPN president John Skipper said in an internal memo. "Among our Charlotte production staff there was a question as to whether -- in these divisive times -- Robert's assignment might create a distraction, or even worse, expose him to social hectoring and trolling."

Skipper went on to say Lee "expressed some personal trepidation about the [Charlottesville] assignment and, when offered the chance to do the Youngstown State/Pitt game instead, opted for that game." 

Instead of the Cavaliers game, Lee has been switched to announce the University of Pittsburgh's opening game against Youngstown State University. 

The sports network's hopes of avoiding potential controversy by switching Lee has instead led to widespread derision on social media, from both sides of the political spectrum.