ESPN college football announcer change is not a good sign
On Saturday, the University of Virginia’s football team will open its season against William and Mary. Ordinarily, this would be a commonplace, innocuous game between a power conference school and a much smaller one.
The same would have been true this year – if it hadn’t been for a late change of the play- byplay announcer.
Specifi cally, a man named Robert Lee was originally scheduled to announce this game for ESPN. On August 22, however, it was reported that Lee’s assignment had been changed. “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,” ESPN said in a public statement.
The “tragic events in Charlottesville” referred to three deaths that occurred as a result of white supremacy protests and subsequent counterprotests in early August. The “coincidence of his name” refers to the fact that Lee ( kind of) shares a name with Robert E. Lee, the leader of the Confederate army during the American Civil War.
Initial public reaction was not kind to ESPN. Viewers and commentators alike viewed the assignment change as yet another example of political correctness run amok. ESPN responded by upping the ante on initial reports, claiming that not only was Lee consulted about the assignment change, but that he actually initiated it.
Whether this claim was true or not, it clearly painted ESPN as protesting too much, particularly given the network’s recent history of allowing a left- leaning agenda to guide its staffi ng and editorial policies ( see Caitlyn Jenner, Curt Schilling and Mike Ditka).
The shame of it all is that racial problems still exist in the US. Even worse is the fact that nonsense issues like ESPN commentator Robert Lee’s name prevent us from addressing the core symptoms of those problems.
Until we’re ready to look past this nonsense, it’s doubtful that any meaningful change will occur – either in sports or society at large.