ESPN may have been trying to nip a future hubbub in the bud, but, as CNN notes, it just created a whole new controversy. Asian-American announcer Robert Lee was slated to call the University of Virginia's home-opening football game against William and Mary on Sept. 2, but the ESPN confirmed Tuesday that the recently promoted commentator, who the New York Times notes is a part-time staffer who calls a dozen or so college football and basketball games a year, was reassigned to the Youngstown State versus Pittsburgh matchup the same day. The reason for the switch by ESPN management, per a statement, was "simply because of the coincidence of [Lee's] name," which was apparently too similar for ESPN's comfort to that of the Confederate general whose statue was the focal point behind the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville earlier this month.
The reassignment got picked up by conservative media, which Deadspin reports took it as "a sign of ESPN blindly bowing to political-correctness shock troops as a result of illogical liberal paranoia." "Is this even real life anymore?" Clay Travis writes on the Outkick the Coverage website, adding, "I'm sorry you work for such an idiotic company, Robert Lee." ESPN says its decision "as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding … felt right to all parties." USA Today also notes, per an ESPN exec, that Lee was given the option to call the UVa game or switch, and Lee chose to switch. ESPN says there's no drama here. "We regret that who calls play by play for a football game has become an issue," the statement adds.