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ESPN removes Robert Lee from Virginia/William & Mary broadcast

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“Coincidence” given as reason for pulling Lee from the game

Notre Dame v Virginia Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

ESPN has removed play-by-play commentator Robert Lee from its scheduled ESPN3 broadcast of the UVa football game against William & Mary next Saturday, the network told Streaking the Lawn tonight in a statement.

“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. 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,” an ESPN spokesman said in the statement.

Lee, who is Asian-American, is calling the Youngstown State-Pittsburgh game on ESPN3 that day instead. According to Clay Travis from Outkick The Coverage, who was first with the story, Dave Weekley is set to broadcast UVa-W&M.

The statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee—located in Emancipation Park downtown—was at the center of recent unrest in Charlottesville over the weekend of August 12.

According to Dan Wolken, who covers NCAA Football for USA Today, the move was less about avoiding potential offense and more about reducing possible awkwardness for a new employee.

A later statement provided to Yashar Ali, a journalist for New York Magazine and Mother Jones, further illustrated that Lee and ESPN decided on the move together, with the goal of shielding Lee from being reduced to an internet joke.

Virginia vs. William and Mary will kick off at 3:30pm in Charlottesville on September 2. The team, cheerleaders, and marching band will participate in the “Paint the Town Orange” pep rally on the Downtown Mall the Friday (September 1) before the game.