Robert Lee Victim of his name, sportscaster pulled from Virginia game

The sportscaster was supposed to cover the University of Virginia's season opening game in Charlottesville on September 2.

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A decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee triggered violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month play

A decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee triggered violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month

(GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP)
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Trying to avoid controversy at all costs, ESPN has created a big one.

The US sports television network yanked Robert Lee as the announcer at a college football game because he has the same name as the Confederate general at the center of the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month.

The sportscaster was supposed to cover the University of Virginia's season opening game in Charlottesville on September 2.

ESPN acknowledged it decided to have him announce another game instead "as the tragic events were unfolding in Charlottesville, simply because of the coincidence of his name."

Robert E. Lee, who died in 1870, was the celebrated commander of the forces of the slave-holding South during the Civil War.

He was the focal point of an August 12 rally that drew hundreds of white supremacists and neo-Nazis to Charlottesville to protest plans to remove a statue of the general from a public park.

The protest sparked violent clashes and a woman was killed when a suspected Nazi sympathizer rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

"In that moment it felt right to all parties" to reassign its sportscaster to another game, ESPN said in a statement.

"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."

But the decision drew biting comments on social media.

"If this society can't tell the difference from 'Robert E Lee' from 150+ years ago to an Asian sportscaster 'Robert Lee' we are in trouble,"@Eric_RaceReview wrote on Twitter.

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