ESPN thought its viewers would be offended by a man named Robert Lee. No, not the Confederate General, whose statue was at the center of the recent Charlottesville protests. This is an Asian man who is a sportscaster. ESPN pulled him from commenting on a University of Virginia football game because they were afraid that their viewers would be offended. Or maybe they thought their viewers were just too dumb to know the difference between the current sportscaster and a general that’s been dead for almost 150 years.
ESPN made 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.”
To keep reading, click here: Are ESPN’s Viewers Really this Dumb? Their Management Sure Thinks So
13 thoughts on “Are ESPN’s Viewers Really this Dumb? Their Management Sure Thinks So”
I wasn’t going to comment until I read the entire article. Yes, I agree that the trend of becoming sensitive about everything has to stop, especially when people like myself had to deal with others around me making fun of me because it was funny for them. I learned to develop a hard shell to deal with their attitude as I learned not everyone fits into that round hole of being part of the crowd.
So many people don’t value themselves as learn shame of self from being put down. I can best explain it by comparison of impressionist art to art from the Renaissance. Both are equally good and you can learn to appreciate each for what they present even though they are completely different from the other.
I view “sensitivity ” as a form of racism.
I could understand if a small business had a spokesperson named Robert Lee and they didn’t want to take the risk of offending and creating a business destroying news storm. But this is ESPN. They can handle the backlash…and actually, for a company that size, it would just be publicity.
Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t do a segment on the irony of the sportscaster’s name. It could have been a lighthearted segment that would have generated some positive attention.
The backlash from this hypothetical small business being a twitter mob saying… “Hey didn’t someone racist have a similar name?” ?
Makes me think of all the poor men named Donald Trump (I work with one) who must be constantly saying “no relation.”
Given the fact that a woman was arguing that furor should not have been used in the title of an article produced by NPR on facebook last night because it sounds like Fuhrer….
I’m sure, technically, it’s legal. But what a potential blow to this man’s career. He’s in an industry for which success depends heavily on having a public, on-air presence. How many more games will they pull him from? How often will they assign him to “less important” broadcasts to avoid “offense.” And how much will his career suffer for lack of visibility?
Was Mr. Lee actually threatened with harm? Was there a significant number of viewers who threatened to boycott? A significant number of advertisers threatening to pull ads? If not, than ESPN is really having a knee-jerk reaction over nothing! Simply cracking a lighthearted joke: “I’m Robert Lee – no relation to the guy on the horse” with a huge smile at the camera would be all it would take.
“what a potential blow to this man’s career”
That was my first reaction as well. And it is not like the name is unusual or something else. Both “Robert” and “Lee” are VERY common.
I was especially disturbed by ESPN’s language “In that moment it felt right to all parties.”
ALL parties? Really? ALL? I kind of suspect that “Robert Lee” whose career was, at best, put on hold will disagree that it is right for ALL parties. It sure doesn’t sound “right” for him.
And, if there was a threat of a boycott, how about the company brass stand up for their employees and not throw them under the bus?
It would be helpful to know the context in which this arose. It’s extremely doubtful that ESPN would take such an action and publicly report it unless something had preceded it, such as some type of social media buzz. And, who knows, perhaps it was Lee who requested it. A sad reality of our times is that innocent people sometimes get cyber-bullied, including death threats to themselves and their families. As to whether or not ESPN viewers are “dumb,” if the President of the United States does not know that Robert E. Lee’s contemporary — Frederick Douglass — is dead, how can we assume that ordinary Americans would all know that General Lee is? Crowds of people — including, I’m sure, some ESPN viewers — were marching in the streets, carrying Nazi, Confederate and Ku Klux Klan Flags, chanting Nazi (and other racist) slogans, proudly proclaiming themselves to be Fascists, Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, Alt-Rights, White Supremacists, etc., brandishing (and, occasionally, using) firearms, pipes, clubs, pepper spray and other weapons, as well as helmets and shields. Although the term “malevolent” would spring to mind earlier, certainly no one can discount the possibility that some of the ESPN viewers could also, fairly, be classified as “dumb.”
I might have missed something prior, because I don’t follow sports or ESPN, but the only controversy I saw on social media was how stupid they were to think anyone could mistake this poor guy for the Confederate general. Robert Lee is an incredibly common name. Check it out: https://www.fastcompany.com/40457655/there-are-literally-thousands-of-people-named-robert-lee
ESPN messed up. I hope they paid him, at least!
ESPN has released a statement saying that Lee was uncomfortable with the original assignment and requested the change.
I highly doubt that’s how it went down. ESPN is trying to CYA. If that was the case, they would have said it originally. Although I disagree with it, I wonder why they didn’t just handle it quietly…just send another reporter to fill in for him.
It’s my understanding they were handling it quietly, until an issue was raised about it on social media.
Rationalize all you want. Sometimes things that happen and decisions that are made are just stupid. No mental gymnastics necessary.
This is one of those times.
Oh, and I’m *so* sure this Robert Lee guy “requested” to be reassigned. Of course he did.
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