A commentator named Robert Lee was scheduled to call a football game in Charlottesville, Va., but the coincidence that he shares a name with Confederate general Robert E. Lee caused ESPN to reverse course.
Lee was set to announce the University of Virginia's game against William and Mary but was moved to Youngstown State at Pittsburgh, sources inside ESPN told sportswriter Clay Travis of the "Outkick the Coverage" sports news blog. Considering the lack of connection between the general and the announcer, Travis found the episode indicative of ESPN's increasing tendency toward political correctness.
"Is there anything more pathetic than ESPN believing people would be offended by an Asian guy named Robert Lee sharing a name with Robert E. Lee and calling a football game?" Travis wrote.
ESPN confirmed the report in a statement Tuesday night, saying that "in that moment it felt right."
"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," ESPN's statement reads. "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."
"This makes it a bigger story than it ever would have been," Travis said Tuesday on "Tucker Carlson Tonight," arguing that Lee announcing the game would have led to little more than Twitter jokes.
"Instead we are talking about how absurd this decision is for ESPN for days to come," he said.
"Does ESPN really believe people are this dumb or that having an Asian announcer named Robert Lee is too offensive for the average TV viewer to handle?" Travis wrote. "Yes, yes they do."
"I'm sorry you work for such an idiotic company, Robert Lee," he wrote.
Travis has long been a critic of ESPN, and has taken to calling the network "MSESPN," combining it with MSNBC to mock it for liberal bias. He has argued that its politically slanted coverage of sports, such as controversies around Colin Kaepernick, causes viewers to drop the network.
Various reports have stated publicly that ESPN discourages conservative viewpoints. Britt McHenry said that colleagues told her not to publicly identify as a conservative, and she did not become open about her politics until after leaving the company.
"Every time I think MSESPN can't possibly get dumber, they get dumber," Travis said. "God save us all."