From Fox News ESPN pulls Asian-American announcer from Virginia football game because he has a Confederate general's name

In the wake of the events in Charlottesville, Va., ESPN decided to pull one of its announcers from calling a University of Virginia football game -- because his name is Robert Lee.

Lee, an Asian-American sportscaster who started with the network in 2016, was moved to a different game "simply because of the coincidence of his name," ESPN said, referencing the Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

The article continues with a mention of accusations of left-wing bias by ESPN:

ESPN, which has faced accusations of liberal bias that some observers believe has led to a downtick in viewership, said it moved its announcer to the Youngstown State game at Pittsburgh.

The claim seems to have originated from Outkick the Coverage, which also accuses ESPN of left-wing bias MSESPN Pulls Asian Announcer Named Robert Lee Off UVa Game To Avoid Offending Idiots

In a story that seems made for The Onion, but is actually true, according to multiple Outkick fans inside ESPN MSESPN decided to pull an Asian college football announcer named Robert Lee off the William and Mary at University of Virginia college football game because they were concerned that having an ASIAN FOOTBALL ANNOUNCER NAMED ROBERT LEE would be offensive to some viewers.

Did I mention that Robert Lee is Asian?

Is this even real life anymore? This might even be worse than MSESPN apologizing for the fantasy football slave draft a couple of weeks ago.

To avoid offending left wing idiots Robert Lee, the Asian college football announcer, not the Confederate General who died in 1870 and shares a name with him, was switched to the Youngstown State at Pittsburgh game and Dave Weekley will now call the William and Mary at University of Virginia game.

"MSESPN" is a derogatory term for ESPN. From the same blog, ESPN Profit Plummets As Network Turns Left:

The result of this coming financial calamity has been panic, which has primarily manifested itself in a desperate ploy for relevance. ESPN decided to become a social justice warrior network, treating all liberal opinion makers as those worthy of promotion and casting aside all those who had the gall to challenge the new Disney world order.


Since then, the reports have spread, possibly virally, to media which don't allege left-wing bias by ESPN.

I tried searching ESPN for official confirmation, but couldn't find any. I came across ESPN broadcaster Robert Lee taken off UVA game due to name, but that's an automated publishing of an article from a news agency:

Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

Did ESPN remove Robert Lee from announcing a game (moving him to announcing a different game), and have they cited the similarity between his name and that of a confederate general?


3 Answers 3


It is true that the announcer Robert Lee scheduled for the game in Charlottesville was switched to a different game by ESPN.

From a New York Times article on the subject:

After the violence in Charlottesville, which left one person dead, ESPN executives and Mr. Lee decided that for his safety it would be best to have him to work on a different game that Saturday, a network spokesman said.

“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 statement.

ESPN states that the reason was safety issues, and that Robert Lee himself was involved in the decision.

To clarify a few points mentioned in your quotes:

  • he was reassigned to a different game, not simply removed from a game
  • ESPN hasn't said anything about "avoiding offending" people according to the news articles so far
  • the game this is about is actually in Charlottesville, this is not a random game just anywhere
  • The New York Times's source looks to be the same Outkick the Coverage article from the question.
    – JonK
    Aug 23, 2017 at 13:35
  • 5
    @JonK They're linking to the article that broke the story, that doesn't mean it's their only source
    – Mad Scientist
    Aug 23, 2017 at 14:27
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    Without another source I don't see how this answers the question as OP is questioning even non Fox media that have picked it up: "Since then, the reports have spread, possibly virally, to media which don't allege left-wing bias by ESPN."
    – JonK
    Aug 23, 2017 at 18:11
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    There are allegations that Robert Lee was told about it but not involved in this decision. So it is confirmed he was involved insomuch as being told but that may have been his involvement in total
    – Lan
    Aug 24, 2017 at 9:59

Because the question title is somewhat different than the actual question (titles can only be so long) I thought it might be helpful to readers of this question to mention up front that Robert Lee was not simply "removed from calling a game," as the title states (and, as commenter icc97 mentions below, the Fox News headline states), i.e. he did not lose an opportunity to call a game because of this decision.

The full question is qualified in the last paragraph and this has already been answered:

Yes he was moved to a different game, and yes this was due to the man's name.

Other claims (quoted in the question above) allege that liberal bias or hypersensitivity is the main reason behind this change.

According to Yashar Ali, a contributing writer for New York Magazine and other outlets, an ESPN executive emailed him a more thorough explanation refuting some of the claims mentioned above:

This wasn't about offending anyone. It was about the reasonable possibility that because of his name he would be subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else. Think about it. Robert Lee comes to town to do a game in Charlottesville. The reaction to our switching a young, anonymous play by play guy for a streamed ACC game is off the charts — reasonable proof that the meme/joke possibility was real.

So, when the protests in Charlottesville were happening, we raised with him the notion of switching games. Something we do all the time. We didn't make him. We asked him. Eventually we mutually agreed to switch.

No biggie until someone leaked it to embarrass us and him. They got their way.

That's what happened.

No politically correct efforts. No race issues. Just trying to be supportive of a young guy who felt it best to avoid the potential zoo.

This is an unnamed source and wasn't put out by an actual news organization, so take it however you like.

  • 3
    Not saying it is wrong, but the quote is a little odd. "Just trying to be supportive of a young guy who felt it best to avoid the potential zoo." But elsewhere it indicates that it was ESPN's idea. "We asked him. Eventually we mutually agreed" Aug 23, 2017 at 19:54
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    @PaulDraper It says eventually "we mutually agreed". It seems like both he and ESPN wanted him pulled after discussing it. I don't think it benefited ESPN to pull him, so ultimately the descision to pull him was likely his.
    – JMac
    Aug 23, 2017 at 20:04
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    "Other claims (quoted in the question above) allege that liberal bias or hypersensitivity is the main reason behind this change." I love this accusation. In this case, it's not hypersensitive, it's just sensitive. ESPN is being reasonably aware of current events. That man could have been in danger anywhere in the city if overheard giving his name, or harassed by suspicious employees ("That's not funny."). Firing the guy or taking him altogether from a public-facing position, that would have been hypersensitive.
    – Regular Jo
    Aug 24, 2017 at 20:15
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    Minor clarification from your first sentence which implies the title is somehow incorrect. I think the title was referring to the Fox News article which explicitly says he was pulled from the game. So the question is about whether he was pulled or not. It just happens that from the details of the question it's obvious that Fox News are trying to twist words.
    – icc97
    Aug 25, 2017 at 9:06
  • 1
    @icc97 Added that info to the post, thanks for the suggestion. Aug 25, 2017 at 17:25

Robert Lee reassigned

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

So instead of opening at Virginia vs. William & Mary, Lee will now call Pitt’s home opener.

Also (same source), Robert Lee

is going to spend Sept. 2 at Heinz Field instead. He’s calling Pitt-Youngstown State.

The Virginia game was in Charlottesville, while the Pittsburgh game is near downtown Pittsburgh. For those who don't know, Pittsburgh, PA is about 240 miles (400 km) from Charlottesville, VA or 300 miles (500 km) by road.

Others have already linked evidence that the reason for this was his name and the violence over the Robert E. Lee (no relation) statue in Charlottesville.


"MSESPN" is a derogatory term for ESPN. From the same blog,

I don't know that that is accurate. It's intended as a slur certainly, but it's not derogatory in the same way as many other words. It's a play on the relationship between MSNBC and NBC. MSNBC is the openly liberal cable channel owned by NBC Universal. It's intended as the liberal counterweight to Fox News. Note that Fox News brands itself as the conservative counterweight to CNN.

Conservatives might regard MSESPN as a derogatory term, because conservatives don't think much of MSNBC (72% of consistent conservatives distrust MSNBC). Liberals don't have the same reaction (52% of consistent liberals trust MSNBC). The trust/distrust numbers add to less than 100%, because a significant portion neither trust nor distrust.

What this really seems to be saying is that ESPN is showing itself to be politically biased in the same way that MSNBC is. I don't know that that can be evaluated objectively. But that's what that term is trying to claim (true or not).


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