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TV station removes broadcaster 'Robert Lee' from covering football game - because of his controversial name

The decision came following the recent violence in the Virginia city of Charlottesville.

A statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee is removed from the University of Texas campus
A statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee is removed from the University of Texas campus
Image: Eric Gay via PA Images

ESPN HAS ANNOUNCED its broadcaster Robert Lee will not work the University of Virginia’s football season opener following the recent violence in the state’s city of Charlottesville over the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee.

A spokesperson for the sports broadcaster explained that Lee has been moved to the Youngstown State’s game at Pittsburgh on the ACC Network on 2 September instead.

The statement from the network said that the decision was made to switch Lee to a different game “as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name”.

The statement said:

In that moment, it felt right to all parties.
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.

According to his LinkedIn page, Lee started announcing games for ESPN and its other networks last September. For the past 17 years, Lee has announced men’s basketball games for Siena College in Albany. He is a Journalism graduate of Syracuse University.

Richard Deitsch, a reporter for Sports Illustrated, said on Twitter that an ESPN spokesperson told him that the company did not mandate that Lee change games. Lee was, according to Deitsch, “more comfortable not doing this assignment”.

The decision to change Lee to a different game was met with some criticism on social media.

Violent clashes

Plans to remove a statue of Robert E Lee led to a protest in the University of Virginia area of Charlottesville earlier this month that attracted what is believed to be the largest group of white nationalists to come together in a decade.

Violent clashes erupted between a large gathering of white nationalists and hundreds of counter protesters.

One person was killed and 19 were injured during the protests after a vehicle drove into counter-demonstrators.

Last Thursday, thousands gathered on the campus of the University of Virginia for a candlelit vigil against hate and violence. The vigil came after the weekend of violence.

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The vigil was held on the same day as a memorial service was held for Heather Heyer, the woman killed when the car ploughed into the crowd during the protests.

Last night, President Donald Trump blamed the media for the widespread condemnation of his response to the protest.

Trump opened his political rally in Phoenix with a call for unity, saying, “What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America and tonight, this entire arena stands united in forceful condemnation of the thugs that perpetrated hatred and violence”.

But he quickly trained his ire on the media, shouting that he “openly called for healing unity and love” in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville and claimed the media had misrepresented him.

With reporting by Associated Press

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