Panelists on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" mocked ESPN on Wednesday morning for removing an announcer named Robert Lee from an upcoming University of Virginia football game because his name is the same as that of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
On Tuesday, Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage reported that ESPN removed Lee from announcing the game because his name might be “offensive to some viewers” in the wake of a violent white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, where the University of Virginia is located.
Travis wrote that the decision was made “to avoid offending left-wing idiots.” He noted that the Confederate general of the same name died in 1870 and that Lee the announcer is of Asian descent.
Many thought the story bordered on satire, and the “Morning Joe” panelists seemed to be no exception.
"I kid you not," co-host Willie Geist said after explaining the details of the story.
In a statement issued Tuesday evening, a spokesperson for 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.
Geist noted that “the irony here is it wasn't an issue for anyone until this statement went out, until that decision was made."
MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki pointed to a tweet by ESPN’s Bob Ley questioning if his name might be seen as problematic by his employer.
Rather worried my employee ID/pass may not admit me in the AM. Life, as scripted by @OnionSports.— Bob Ley (@Bob Ley)1503457598.0
"I guess this is the logical outcome of the culture we've created," Geist said.
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson called ESPN's decision "the stupidest thing I've ever heard" and joked it’s why [President Donald] Trump still has a 33 percent approval rating.
He said that even “mask-wearing Antifa anarchists” can differentiate between the two Lees, adding, “It’s really dumb.”
Off-camera laughter could be heard throughout the MSNBC segment.
The University of Virginia plays host to the College of William and Mary on Sept. 2.
"They were worried that his big moment, even on a lightly watched game, might turn into a national joke," the report said.
(H/T: Washington Free Beacon)