Few people probably knew ESPN is televising the University of Virginia’s season-opening football game against William & Mary on Sept. 2 in Charlottesville.
That’s not the case any more.
Robert Lee, a Syracuse graduate who was set to call the Cavaliers’ season-opener for the ESPN, has been reassigned to cover a different game for the network because his name is coincidentally (almost) the same as the famous and controversial Confederate general.
The violent clashes in Charlottesville earlier this month started as a protest toward that city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in a small city park.
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White nationalists marched through the university’s campus near the football stadium on Aug. 11 carrying tiki torches before the violence broke out the following day in Charlottesville.
In a statement, ESPN said the network said it made the decision “as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name. In that moment it felt right for all parties.”
According to Richard Deitsch, a sports media writer for SI.com, ESPN said a company spokesperson said they did not force Lee to change assignments, but said Lee was “more comfortable not doing this assignment.”
Robert Lee, who according to the New York Times announces college basketball games for Siena College and is a part-time announcer for ESPN, will now be in the booth for the Youngstown State-Pittsburgh game on ESPN next weekend.
Both games will be part of ESPN’s afternoon selections on the ACC Network which usually can be viewed locally on Fox Sports Florida, Sun Sports or streamed on the ESPN app.
The Miami Hurricanes open their 2017 season that same day, kicking off at 12:30 on the ACC Network against Bethune-Cookman University.