The story of ESPN moving a sports broadcaster named “Robert Lee” because of the similarity to “Robert E. Lee” tore through the news media landscape and was ridiculed widely and loudly as another example of ESPN’s leftward political lurch.
But a new memo revealed Wednesday disputes the central premise of the story with another explanation of what happened.
New: internal memo from ESPN prez John Skipper about the Robert Lee decision pic.twitter.com/3yFk4hbDRb
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) August 24, 2017
Brian Stelter of CNN obtained an internal memo from ESPN President John Skipper explaining why they moved Robert Lee from one game to another.
“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,” the note read. “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,” he said.
“Since Robert was their primary concern, they consulted with him directly,” Skipper explained. “He expressed some personal trepidation about the assignment and, when offered the chance to do the Youngstown/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.”
“I’m disappointed that the good intentions of our Charlotte colleagues have been intentionally hijacked by someone with a personal agenda,” he concluded, “and sincerely appreciate Robert’s personal input and professionalism throughout this episode.”
That the broadcaster, Robert Lee, was consulted and agreed with the move was not reported before, and could have changed the character of the story being reported, which made it appear that it was merely out of political correctness that the move was made.