Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) tweeted Wednesday that she was “greatly disappointed” in ESPN’s removal of Asian American commentator Robert Lee from a Charlottesville game due to concerns over the similarity of his name to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. “Why discriminate against him?” Rep. Lee asked. “Let him stay.”
I'm greatly disappointed by removal of ESPN commentator Robert Lee from calling a game. Why discriminate against him? Let him stay.— Sheila Jackson Lee (@JacksonLeeTX18) August 23, 2017
The issue may have hit close to home for Rep. Lee, who also has the same last name as the Confederate general.
Rep. Lee, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, is no stranger to ESPN's concerns, having addressed race issues herself following the Charlottesville rally. Rep. Lee spoke out prominently against racism in the aftermath of the violence, accusing the president of normalizing neo-Nazis and the KKK. She has advocated in the past for restricting the display of the Confederate flag on federal land.
ESPN’s decision to remove the sports announcer from this weekend's University of Virginia vs. William & Mary football game broke Tuesday and the sports network has faced ridicule for the decision from both sides of the aisle.
This is stupid. Sorry. Someone's PR team is way too sensitive. https://t.co/9FApzhpQkc— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) August 23, 2017
Robert Lee right now pic.twitter.com/Rr7OrFgrwv— Sam Ro (@bySamRo) August 23, 2017
On the left is ESPN's Robert Lee. On the right is Confederate general Robert E. Lee.— David Hookstead (@dhookstead) August 23, 2017
ESPN thinks people are too dumb to tell them apart. pic.twitter.com/ZBBUnIqKOZ
“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," ESPN said in an initial statement.
An ESPN executive also tried to explain the decision further in an email.
Just received this email from an ESPN executive re the Robert Lee controversy. pic.twitter.com/OuBORlWO9f— Yashar Ali ?? (@yashar) August 23, 2017
The controversy that arose over the decision also revealed that Reuters does not know what the words “namesake” or “doppelganger” mean.