ESPN’s decision to pull broadcaster Robert Lee from the University of Virginia football game has guaranteed that the story will make national headlines (and become a trending item on social media).
The sports network should have left well enough alone, Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis also maintains.
Travis’ Outkick the Coverage blog broke the story that ESPN was removing Lee, an Asian-American, from UVA’s home opener in Charlottesville against William and Mary on September 2 and reassigning him to call the Youngstown State at Pittsburgh matchup because his name is similar to the Confederate general. “Does ESPN really believe people are this dumb or that having an Asian announcer named Robert Lee is too offensive for the average TV viewer to handle?,” he wondered on the blog, adding that the story “seems made for The Onion, but is actually true.” Dave Weekley will take over the play-by-play announcing duties for the ESPN UVA football telecast.
Describing himself as a radical moderate who has never voted Republican, ex-attorney Travis has derisively renamed the Worldwide Leader in Sports “MSESPN” and has argued that it is bleeding subscribers, in part, because it has become, in his words, a social justice warrior network. Last December, ESPN’s public editor acknowledged his network’s leftward movement. FS1 host Jason Whitlock has raised similar concerns about the direction of ESPN content.
In an appearance with FNC’s Tucker Carlson (who initially thought the story was a hoax), Travis further weighed on the Robert Lee ESPN scenario that comes off like a spoof from the satirical website The Onion, as he seemed to imply.
“What you need in this situation is somebody to be a reasonable person and say ‘wait a minute, do we really think the average viewer is going to make the connection between an Asian guy calling a game and the former leader of the Army of Northern Virginia in the Confederate Army?’…This makes it a bigger story than it ever would have been…its emblematic of the world we’ve become, that Onion headlines are even too ridiculous for real-life headlines now…”
Clay Travis continued that this outcome is a function of ESPN’s internal political correctness.
“You have all these left-wing people sitting around saying, ‘oh my God, we’re going to offend somebody,’ and you don’t have a reasonable, rational, middle of the road person saying ‘wait a minute—are we really making the right decision here or are we making the situation worse, and making the country worse’…”
In the conversation, Travis alluded to a survey conducted by The Big Lead that revealed that 80 percent of sports journalists supposedly voted for Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election, while only four percent voted for Donald Trump, with the rest gravitating to third-party candidates.
In a statement, ESPN explained why it switched announcers for the upcoming UVA football game.
“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.”
Ironically, ESPN itself arguably made this a topic of conversation. In a further irony perhaps, longtime ESPN anchor Bob Ley pronounces his last name as “Lee.”
Robert Lee has yet to issue a public statement himself, but monitor this space for any and all updates on this developing controversy, which is still gaining traction on Twitter, with most of the comments unfavorable to ESPN as of this writing.
Watch the Clay Travis interview on Tucker Carlson Tonight and draw your own conclusions.
Added: On his NSFW Outkick the Show Periscope broadcast this afternoon, Clay Travis claimed that ESPN may not recover from this embarrassment. “I’ve been telling all of you that MSESPN was a real thing, and their liberal, left-wing bent had led them astray from their larger universe of viewers. And this is the perfect example,” he insisted.
Clay Travis returned to Tucker Carlson Tonight on Wednesday, along with former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry, to discuss the Robert Lee ESPN controversy.
[Featured Image by Jessica Hill/AP Images]