In the wake of violence in Charlottesvile, Va., ESPN decided on Tuesday to pull an announcer scheduled to work a University of Virginia football game, in Charlottesville, because of the announcer's name: Robert Lee - much like one Confederate general.
In a statement about their decision, ESPN said:
"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."
USA Today writes that Lee opted to switch assignments. He hasn't commented on the controversy.
The entire conversation got us wondering, what's in a name? A name like Robert Lee, for example.
For some perspective, we tracked down three Robert Lees here in Colorado:
- Robert Lee, a retired Navy veteran in Highlands Ranch.
- Robert Lee, a retired man who worked in the forest industry and currently volunteers for Meals on Wheels, in Severance, Colorado.
- Robert Lee, an insurance salesman in Denver.
Robert Lee, Highlands Ranch:
"I asked my parents about how'd I get my name, like all kids are curious," he said. "I was named after a friend of theirs."
Robert Louis Lee joined the military two days after he graduated high school. He worked as a meteorologist and oceanographer in the Navy. He's been in Colorado since 1984.
How the name impacted his life?
"It was really an advantage to me," he said. "My first duty station was in Alabama and you can't get much farther south than Alabama and I was accepted by the people down there because of my name."
"You can't hold a person responsible for what their name is."
Robert Lee, Severance:
"My uncle sketched him (Robert Lee) for me, and I had him hanging in my bedroom for years," he said.
Robert worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 34 years. He went to college at Colorado State University, but he's moved around all across the country.
"I know when we lived down South, my dad, whose name is actually Robert E. Lee was treated like a God just about wherever he went," he said. "He was a salesman and I think that probably opened up a lot of doors to him down South."
"Should you judge others for what other people did, or may have done 150 years ago? ... Seemed a little ridiculous to me. I can't imagine why anyone would be upset at a sports announcer's name."
Robert Lee, Denver
"I was actually named after Robert E. Lee. Both my parents came here from South Korea. All my mother knew was that Robert Lee was a famous general in the United States," he said.
Robert Yong Lee is currently regional vice president at an insurance company. He moved to Colorado in 1996 from Michigan.
"I actually have a neighbor just a couple houses down, his name is also Robert Lee," he said. He's not surprised at how many people have his name.
"Every time I go into a store or check into a hotel, they always have use a second or third piece of identification because there's so many of us out there," he said.
"I don't know that something that happened so long ago should be so impactful in our world today, in our society today especially ... I find it hard to believe that Robert Lee in Virginia was worried about announcing football games."