Sports channel ESPN says it has pulled an Asian announcer from a football game at the University of Virginia for having the same name as Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Announcer Robert Lee, who is Asian and has no relation to the general who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War, had been scheduled to call a football game at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on September 2.
“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,” the network said in a statement on late Tuesday night, responding to rumors about the decision.
News of the decision immediately provoked criticism on social media.
“In that moment it felt right to all parties,” ESPN added in its statement, referring to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville during which a woman was killed when a rally participant crashed his car into a group of counter-protesters. Nearly 20 others were injured.
Instead of hosting the game at the University of Virginia, Lee’s assignment has been changed to Youngstown State University at Pittsburgh. “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,” the network added.
Confederate symbols have become increasingly controversial in the United States since a white supremacist opened fire at a black church in South Carolina in 2015, killing 9 people. The violence at the rally in Virginia has reignited the debate and several Confederate statues have already been removed.
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