In the wake of the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., ESPN has reassigned announcer Robert Lee from broadcasting Virginia’s season-opening game against William & Mary because of the similarity of his name to the famous Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
ESPN provided the following statement:
“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.”
A network spokesperson told SI's Richard Deitsch that ESPN did not force Lee to change assignments and that Lee personally felt more comfortable moving to another game.
White nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee, marching on Virginia’s campus with torches and chanting racial slurs. One woman was killed when a white supremacist drove a car into a group of counter-protestors.
ESPN noted that the decision was not mandated by the company's executives and that re-assignments happen all the time. Lee will instead call the Pittsburgh–Youngstown State game in Week 1.