Following the recent events involving nationalists and neo-Nazi’s in Charlottesville, VA, ESPN announced that one of its employees would no longer be broadcasting the opening football game between the University of Virginia (UVA) and William & Mary College in Charlottesville.
The reason for this decision: because the announcer’s name is Robert Lee — the same as the infamous general of the Confederate army during the Civil War.
In a press release statement, ESPN announced “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.” In the days following the decision, ESPN has received a lot of feedback, both positive and negative, for its decision to pull Lee from the game.
Supporters of the decision believe ESPN was right to do this and it shows they stand in solidarity with the victims of the recent events in Charlottesville. On the flip side, people against ESPN’s decision to remove Lee from the game say ESPN comes off as a soft in this decision and the company is too focused on promoting an image of political correctness for themselves. Additionally, denouncers of the decision say had ESPN left Lee on the Sept. 2 game, hardly anyone would have noticed the connection between the two and nobody would be offended by listening to an Asian American announcer with the same name of the Confederate army general broadcast a college football game.
This all ties in with the recent politicization of sports and sports media. NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has dominated headlines in sports for the past year not for his play on the field but for using his fame as an NFL player to voice his political opinions on the poor treatment of African Americans in America. He received a lot of backlash and was often called “un-American” for his protests when he decided to kneel during the National Anthem before games. This has been a dominant story in the news for the past year and plays a big role in why Kaepernick is still unemployed even though his talent is very deserving of an NFL roster spot.
Many people are very disappointed with the recent politicization of sports media. Many consumers of sports media are beginning to ask these outlets like ESPN and Fox Sports to simply “stick to sports” instead of turning something potentially subtle like this Robert Lee situation into a full-blown political discussion.