ESPN thought its viewers would be offended by a man named Robert Lee. No, not the Confederate General, whose statue was at the center of the recent Charlottesville protests. This is an Asian man who is a sportscaster. ESPN pulled him from commenting on a University of Virginia football game because they were afraid that their viewers would be offended. Or maybe they thought their viewers were just too dumb to know the difference between the current sportscaster and a general that's been dead for almost 150 years.
ESPN made a statement:
"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."
Here's the thing: It was not an issue until you made it an issue. Should we be concerned about anyone who shares a name with someone we don't like? According to How Many of Me, there are 11,518 Robert Lees in the United States right now. Better make sure none of them have any contact with ESPN viewers, because they may start to question why people are even allowed to exist if their name is shared with a Confederate Civil War General.
So just to clarify, Robert Lee, Asian play by play man, & Robert E. Lee, Confederate General, are different people: https://t.co/2Oz22i4Vpx-- Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) August 22, 2017
Technically, I'll acknowledge that this was undoubtedly legal. There's no protection for name discrimination as long as it's not a proxy for racial discrimination. Since sportscaster Lee was Asian, and General Lee was white, it was undoubtedly a decision not made on race. Still, it's dumb.
Yes, there are angry mobs on the internet who will demand that people be fired for a variety of reasons.Yes, undoubtedly, someone would have gotten their knickers in a twist over a man named Robert Lee calling a University of Virginia game. We should ignore these people.
Yes, I said ignore them. People who choose to be so miserable that they see offense around every corner don't deserve to have their fantasies of victimhood indulged.
Can you imagine a world where we stopped judging people on their qualifications and started panicking about their names? Should we exclude everyone that shares names with Confederate soldiers? You see the ridiculous nature of this.
Your business needs a backbone. Don't treat your customers as if they were idiots. And do the right thing. And the right thing includes putting the right person in the right job, regardless of what that person's name is.