On Tuesday night time, the community confirmed that its administration moved an Asian-American announcer, Robert Lee, off the College of Virginia’s house opener soccer recreation “merely due to the coincidence of his identify.”
Earlier Tuesday, a supply had advised CNN that Lee was abruptly switched to the Youngstown versus Pitt recreation. He had lately been promoted by ESPN, so the swap was a delicate matter.
Information of the choice follows the violence that broke out earlier this month at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, protesting plans to take away a statue of Accomplice Gen. Robert E. Lee. The night time earlier than the deadly violence, white nationalists marched throughout the UVA campus, carrying torches and chanting racist slogans.
Now, UVA is making ready for the beginning of a brand new college 12 months. The opening house recreation — towards William and Mary — is on September 2, the identical day as Youngstown versus Pitt.
Each video games are slated to be live-streamed on ESPN’s digital networks, not on tv. But when ESPN thought this was a minor change, it was rapidly confirmed flawed when phrase leaked out on Tuesday.
The web site Outkick the Protection broke the story — with a headline invoking a preferred conservative nickname for ESPN, “MSESPN,” which derides the community because the sports activities equal of the liberal speak reveals on MSNBC.
The headline stated, “MSESPN Pulls Asian Announcer Named Robert Lee Off UVa Sport To Keep away from Offending Idiots.” The story was so standard that the positioning’s servers had been overloaded on Tuesday night.
ESPN subsequently stated in an announcement that its executives “collectively made the choice with Robert to change video games because the tragic occasions in Charlottesville had been unfolding.”
“In that second it felt proper to all events,” the community stated. “It is a disgrace that that is even a subject of dialog and we remorse that who calls play-by-play for a soccer recreation has grow to be a difficulty.”
From ESPN’s perspective, the executives had been attempting to protect towards Lee changing into a punchline, on condition that he shares a reputation with a Accomplice common.
They foresaw memes and headlines “Robert Lee marches into Charlottesville.” Transferring Lee to a distinct recreation was seen as a option to help him.
However many commenters on social media stated ESPN overreacted. The story lit up Twitter and Fb on Tuesday. Two of the prime time reveals on Fox Information mocked ESPN for the choice. A banner on display referred to as it “pathetic.”
“ESPN did this out of concern of the yowling mob. And is a part of it now,” John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary, wrote on Twitter.
Effectively-known ESPN anchor Bob Ley additionally weighed in and made gentle of his final identify: “Somewhat anxious my worker ID/cross might not admit me within the AM. Life, as scripted by @OnionSports.”
The criticism did not let up on Wednesday morning. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee shared a series of tweets mocking ESPN’s trigger-happy decision-making.
“ESPN is not going to broadcast video games of any form from Jackson, MS for concern it would honor Stonewall or Andrew Jackson and set off somebody,” he wrote.
And: “ESPN will not air soccer video games on TV as referees are wearing black and white and that might be considered as binary racism.”
ESPN has been strongly criticized — primarily in conservative circles — for injecting political points into sports activities protection and for allegedly taking sides in numerous controversies.
The community recently commissioned a study that discovered political polarization has not had an enormous impact on viewership.
CNNMoney (New York) First printed August 23, 2017: three:26 AM ET