ESPN confirmed late Tuesday that it had removed an Asian-American announcer named Robert Lee off the University of Virginia’s upcoming home opener football game.
“[It’s] simply because of the coincidence of his name,” the sports network said in a statement, according to CNN Media.
“[We] collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the traffic events in Charlottesville, [Virginia] were unfolding,” ESPN added.
“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.”
CNN Media reported that UVA’s opening home game is scheduled for Sept. 2 in Charlottesville against the College of William & Mary.
A source told CNN Media earlier Tuesday that Lee had been switched to the Youngstown State University versus the University of Pittsburgh game the same day in Pittsburgh.
Lee had recently been promoted by ESPN, according to CNN Media, making the swap a sensitive topic.
The two games are scheduled to be live-streamed on ESPN’s digital networks, but not on television.
The website Outkick The Coverage on Tuesday broke the news of Lee’s transfer, however, in an article so popular that the site’s servers overloaded.
“MSESPN Pulls Asian Announcer Named Robert Lee Off UVa Game to Avoid Offending Idiots,” the article’s headlines read, referencing a popular conservative nickname for ESPN.
“MSESPN” is a moniker that derides ESPN as the sports equivalent of liberal programming on MSNBC.
White nationalists descended upon UVA’s campus in Charlottesville earlier this month to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee there.
The situation turned violent a day later, with clashes erupting between the white nationalists and counter-protesters opposing them.
One person died when a car drove into a crowd of counter-protesters, and two Virginia State troopers were also killed in a helicopter crash linked to the unrest there.