In a decision that many on social media thought was a parody from the Onion, ESPN pulled a commentator from doing the play by play of an upcoming college game. The commentator had not shown incompetence nor had he committed any transgression, real or imagined. He was pulled solely because of his name: Robert Lee. To make the absurdity complete, the commentator is an Asian American.

What’s in a name?

The sports website Outkick the Coverage first broke the story, with the title "MSESPN Pulls Asian Announcer Named Robert Lee Off UVa Game To Avoid Offending Idiots." “MSESPN” was a combination of ESPN and MSNBC, the far left cable news network.

So many people tried to access the story that the site’s servers were overloaded.

The “reason” the sports network took this decision was that Mr. Lee has a similar name to that of General Robert E. Lee, the famous Confederate general whose statues have become the subject of controversy. A protest over a plan to take down a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville resulted in violence and the death of a woman.

Criticism came fast and furious

ESPN pulled Robert Lee from his on air position in the upcoming game because the sports network feared that his name would become the butt of jokes and even outrage by viewers. Instead, the network bought itself merciless ridicule from social media and other news networks.

David Whitley, writing for the Orlando Sentinel, was particularly relentless in his ridicule.

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He noted that some people are irate at the name of the University of Southern California’s mascot, a white horse named Traveler which happens to be similar to the name of Robert E. Lee’s horse. Now, Whitley notes, anyone who has the name Robert Lee is at risk, even an Asian American who has no relationship with the bearded, white haired gentleman from Virginia. Indeed, anyone named Lee, even Spike Lee, may become a target.

Robert E. Lee has become a figure of fear again

General Robert E. Lee, in his day, was one of the most feared people in the United States. His Army of Northern Virginia savaged the Union Army again and again, until being defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg. Then a man named Ulysses S. Grant ground down Lee and his army relentlessly until he was forced to surrender at Appomattox.

Now the long shadow of Marse Robert, as his men affectionately referred to him, has stretched out to trouble the mind and to cause outrage and controversy. What the gentleman from Virginia, dead since 1870, would have thought of the matter can only be imagined.