ESPN mocked after pulling commentator Robert Lee over threat of 'memes and jokes'

  • 24/08/2017
Robert Le from ESPN (left) and Robert Lee, the general (right).
Robert Le from ESPN (left) and Robert Lee, the general (right). Photo credit: ESPN/file

A commentator with the same name as Confederate general Robert E Lee has been removed from a University of Virginia football broadcast in the aftermath of the deadly violence over a Lee statue.

White nationalists rallied earlier this month against a proposal to take down a Robert E Lee statue in Charlottesville, and clashed with counter-protesters. One woman was killed after a man crashed his car into a crowd of anti-racism counter-protesters.

The decision to remove announcer Robert Lee, which sparked anger on social media, was made for safety reasons, ESPN spokeswoman Keri Potts said. Sports media website Outkick the Coverage broke the story on Tuesday that Lee was pulled from the September 2 game to avoid offending viewers.

"When the protests in Charlottesville were happening, we raised with him the notion of switching games," ESPN spokesman Chris LaPlaca said. "We didn't make him. We asked him. Eventually we mutually agreed to switch."

#RobertLee was the second top-trending topic on Twitter on Wednesday as social media users expressed anger over ESPN's decision to remove him.

"Robert Lee announcing the UVA game in the wake of #Charlottesville could have been the 'Eff you, Nazis' we needed right now. #espn," wrote user Akilah Green on Twitter

Others thought the decision was hilarious.

Attempts to reach Mr Lee for comment were unsuccessful.

The network originally planned for Mr Lee to work during the University of Virginia's game against the College of William and Mary.

A growing number of US political leaders have called for the removal of statues honouring the Confederacy. Civil rights activists charge the statues promote racism while advocates contend they are a reminder of their heritage.

"This wasn't about offending anyone," ESPN said. "It was about the reasonable possibility that because of his name he would be subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else."

ESPN rescheduled Mr Lee to work during Youngstown State's game at the University of Pittsburgh on the same date, Ms Potts said.

Reuters / Newshub.