The broadcaster and ESPN mutually decided to have him switch assignments.
ESPN broadcaster named Robert Lee was set to call the Virginia-William & Mary Week 1 college football game in Charlottesville, before he was removed from the broadcast team.
Many viewed the move in a controversial light, as the young broadcaster shares a name with Confederate general Robert E. Lee, whose statue was removed, sparking white nationalist protests in Charlottesville.
ESPN president John Skipper sent out the following memo to ESPN employees, explaining the move.
Given the amount of media attention being generated by one of the countless, routine decisions our local production teams make every day, I wanted to make sure you have the facts. There was never any concern - by anyone, at any level -- that Robert Lee’s name would offend anyone watching the Charlottesville game.
Among our Charlotte production staff there was a question as to whether – in these divisive times -- Robert’s assignment might create a distraction, or even worse, expose him to social hectoring and trolling. Since Robert was their primary concern, they consulted with him directly. He expressed some personal trepidation about the assignment and, when offered the chance to do the Youngstown State/Pitt game instead, opted for that game -- in part because he lives in Albany and would be able to get home to his family on Saturday evening.
I’m disappointed that the good intentions of our Charlotte colleagues have been intentionally hijacked by someone with a personal agenda, and sincerely appreciate Robert’s personal input and professionalism throughout this episode.
ESPN was trying to do the right thing here, preventing their young broadcaster from being the subject of some jokes on social media, but it backfired tremendously.
Lee will call the Pitt-Youngstown State game instead.