ESPN col­lege foot­ball an­nouncer change is not a good sign

Global Times - - Sports - ROB VOGT The au­thor is a Chicago- based free­lance writer. rob­vogtwrit­ing@ gmail. com

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.

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