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I’m going to do something I didn’t expect to when I first learned of this story. I’m going to defend ESPN’s decision regarding sportscaster Robert Lee.

For those who aren’t aware, the story goes that sportscaster Robert Lee had been assigned to work September 2nd’s William & Mary at University of Virginia football game. After the recent troubles in Charlottesville, the powers that be called Mr. Lee in and raised the idea of moving him to another game. The reason was because Mr. Lee, an Asian-American, happens to have the same first and last name as Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It was a decision to take down General Lee’s statue, along with General Stonewall Jackson’s, that was the focus of the protests.

At first glance, the whole thing is ridiculous. It’s highly unlikely anyone would care one way or the other that Mr. Lee, an Asian-American whom no reasonable person would confuse for the general.

But look at it from ESPN’s view for a second. You’ve got a young sportscaster calling a second-rate matchup; it’s probably not that strange to switch young talent from one game to another. You have a very small chance of the sportscaster’s name causing any problem, but last week’s fighting indicates there were at least a few unhinged people hanging around Charlottesville, so the odds are small, but not miniscule. If perchance, lightning strikes and something happens to Mr. Lee, you’ll be blamed and sued. It may seem ludicrous to think anything might happen, but if it does, then everyone will forget how small the odds were and focus only that it happened. If it’s a 1,000 to 1 shot, but it happens, then in retrospect armchair quarterbacks will think it was a far better shot to happen; more importantly, some judge or jury will likely agree. Many of the same people laughing at you for making the switch will then blame you for not having done so.

A more likely scenario is that there is a bit of commentary about some guy named Robert Lee covering a game in Charlottesville shortly after the protests. That’s more innocuous, but it takes away from the game itself.

Finally, the game you’re switching him to, Pittsburgh hosting Bo Pellini’s Youngstown State, is arguably a better game anyway. It’s at least comparable. So there’s little upside to keeping him in Charlottesville, but potentially (highly unlikely, but potentially) a huge downside to keeping him there.

Now, I don’t think they had to move him, or even should have. I think the odds are really, really small of it causing more than a raised eyebrow. But it’s not indefensible. ESPN’s a private business, trying to protect its bottom line; it’s understandable that it would want to reduce its exposure to a distraction or an embarrassing situation or worse.

One postscript – This decision never should have seen the light of day. I’m curious why someone would leak it.

– 1TF

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Two of the world’s great sporting traditions continue today, the World Cup and the Tour de France.  Both of have seen great shock and disappointment in the past 24 hours.  Yesterday, Brazil, without services of their young offensive ace, Neymar, and more importantly, their captain and defensive leader, Tiago, was thrashed by an organized and relentless German squad 7-1.  Today, the Tour lost its defending champion, Chris Froome of Great Britain to a wrist injury in the rain splattered Stage 5 race.

Germany will be a formidable opponent for whomever emerges as the winner this afternoon.  I expect the Netherlands to prevail in a tight game today.  Even the masterful Lionel Messi will have trouble placing as much pressure on Holland’s defense as the three-headed monster of van Persie, Schneider and Robben will place on Argentina’s.  The Brazilians meanwhile will have to rebound quickly for the 3rd place game.  If the Netherlands were to defeat Argentina, then Brazil and Argentina will have a serious battle for pride on Saturday; the Verde-Amarela will want to avoid being embarrassed twice at home.

As for the Tour, even without its defending champion (and hopefully without the drug problems that have plagued its past decade), it is a magnificent race to watch.  Not only the rivalries and intrigues that crop up during the three weeks of competition, but the beautiful old French towns and countryside as seen in the helicopter shots make it a fun escape for sports fans – or even non-sports fans if they like beautiful scenery – to make, if only for a little while.  Do yourself a favor in the coming days and tune in for just a few minutes; I think if you do, you’ll find yourself coming back for more.

– 1 TF

 

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