ESPN president John Skipper told the company’s employees Wednesday that broadcaster Robert Lee wasn’t taken off Virginia football game in Charlottesville because his name would offend anyone, but for his own protection.
The internal memo, tweeted out by Sports Business Journdal media reporter, John Ourand, came after ESPN came under fire for engaging in what many critics believed was over-the-top political correctness in the wake of clashes this month between white nationalists and counterprotesters over plans to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee in the Virginia city.
“Given the amount of media attention being generated by one of the countless, routine decisions our local production teams make every day, I wanted to make sure you have the facts,” Skipper wrote. “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. Since Robert was their primary concern, they consulted with him directly. He expressed some personal trepidation about the assignment and, when offered the chance to do the Youngstown State/Pitt game instead, opted for that game — in part because he lives in Albany and would be able to get home to his family on Saturday evening.
Skipper also wrote that someone with an ax to grind created the false narrative.
“I’m disappointed that the good intentions of our Charlotte colleagues have been intentionally hijacked by someone with a personal agenda, and sincerely appreciate Robert’s personal input and professionalism throughout this episode.”