Chinese Announcer Removed Due to Similarities with Confederate General (No, Really)

Chinese Announcer Removed Due to Similarities with Confederate General (No, Really)
Chinese Announcer Removed Due to Similarities with Confederate General (No, Really)

Most Americans who know their history are aware of General Robert E. Lee; the man commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia throughout the Civil War. In terms of Southern culture, his name remains revered by many modern Confederates and reviled by anti-fascist protesters, both of which were present for the recent debacle at Charlottesville, Virginia. Lee’s name is polarizing; it has the ability to inspire or horrify depending on the situation, especially in an America where racial tensions are at an all-time high. There is so much truth to this that you can penalized for sharing his name — even if you’re Chinese.
Regardless of how you feel about Robert E. Lee, most Americans can agree that having the same first or last name as someone doesn’t necessarily mean you represent their history. ESPN announcer Robert Lee, a man of Chinese descent, knows this first-hand; his last name is one of the most common Asian surnames, making him just about as far removed from General Lee as one can possibly get.
But that difference didn’t benefit him much last week, after sports network ESPN removed him from a game in Virginia, citing concerns for both Lee’s safety and reputation. The decision created an immediate and very serious firestorm for both the announcer and the network, with many citing it as a perfect example of “PC gone too far.”
Republican nominee for Virginia governor, Ed Gillespie, mocked the decision, tweeting, “When political correctness becomes self parody.” Alt-right activist Jack Posobiec posted side-by-side pictures of both Lee and Lee, sarcastically pointing out that you could “barely tell them apart.”
Several other activists called the move questionable and even outright racist, suggesting that his removal is akin to bowing down to the alt-right and giving them what they want. Others believe that ESPN is “giving in” to alt-left activists instead. Neither seem particularly accurate given the announcements from both ESPN and Lee.
ESPN denies any wrongdoing in the situation, pointing out that Lee agreed with their decision and that it wasn’t made to pacify, but to protect.
“There was never any concern — by anyone, at any level — that Robert Lee’s name would offend anyone watching the Charlottesville game. Among our Charlotte production staff there was a question as to whether — in these divisive times — Robert’s assignment might create a distraction, or even worse, expose him to social hectoring and trolling.”
ESPN also clarified that Lee himself “felt some trepidation” about the assignment, and was happy to go along with the plan. The network assigned him to the Youngstown State/Pitt game instead, where he would not only be assumed safe, but could easily commute home to his family after the game.
Although it certainly seems absurd, especially given that Lee is Asian-American, it isn’t a stretch to consider his safety or targetability. After all, we live in an America where statues can spur on riots between neo-nazis and anti-fascists that lead to dismemberment and outright death on either side.
An ESPN representative summed it up nicely by saying, “”Let’s not go to the zoo if we don’t have to go to the zoo.”