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Whicker: Confederacy of dunces: What was ESPN thinking by reassigning announcer Robert Lee?

By in Press Enterprise on August 23, 2017

By Mark Whicker

One should avoid using “crazy” as a pejorative term. Those with mental illness should be spared ridicule, just like cancer patients.

So we sit here and wait, in vain, for another term that sums up what ESPN did on Tuesday.

It was reported that ESPN was removing play-by-play man Robert Lee from Virginia’s season opener with William & Mary on Sept. 2.

With all the controversy over Gen. Robert E. Lee’s statue in Charlottesville, the network felt it would be inappropriate and maybe even confusing to have someone of that name in Scott Stadium.

So Lee would handle Pittsburgh’s opener with Youngstown State instead. Both games are on ESPN3, the digital platform.

Pretty funny, you thought. The Onion is really working overtime this week.

The satire website already had to strain mightily to top what happened at USC last week, when a student said the Trojans should rename Traveler, their equine mascot, merely because Lee had ridden a steed named Traveller. Never mind that Lee’s horse died 90 years before Traveler’s first ride into The Coliseum.

Maybe Chris Stapleton could be persuaded to rename his epic 2015 album something like “A Person Who Moves From Place To Place.”

Then we waited for someone to ‘fess up to the Robert Lee joke.

Alas, ESPN not only confirmed the story but tried to couch its decision in its deep concern for Lee himself. “In the moment it felt right for both parties,” the network stated.

The publicity might boost Lee’s career by luring more listeners. He does play-by-play for Siena University basketball when ESPN isn’t using him.

More likely, his life will get more complicated, wherever he goes. Does ESPN think all of the Gen. Lee protesters are in Charlottesville?

What ESPN really did was validate a grievance that didn’t exist. Granted, that’s become a national pastime, especially on campus.

And, granted, someone might have […]    

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