Few people probably knew ESPN would be covering the University of Virginia’s opening game against William & Mary on Sept. 2 in Charlottesville.
That’s not the case any more, not after the network reassigned one of its broadcasters because of his name.
Robert Lee, a Syracuse graduate who was set to call the Cavaliers’ season-opener for the network, has been moved to cover a different game because of his name.
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.”
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.
White nationalists marched through the university’s campus on Aug. 11 carrying tiki torches.
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 will open up their 2017 season that same day, kicking off at 12:30 on the ACC Network against Bethune-Cookman University.