Robert Lee lost something in Virginia, and 152 years later, another Robert Lee did too.
The living Robert Lee, an ESPN sports broadcaster, was pulled from calling the University of Virginia home opener against William and Mary on Sept. 2 due to sharing a name with the Confederate general at the center of unrest in Charlottesville.
"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," Derek Volner, an ESPN spokesman, told The Washington Post in an emailed statement.
"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," he said.
Volner declined to say if the network made a preemptive decision or responded to outside pressure to pull Lee from the broadcast. He also did not say if Lee was made available for comment. Lee, a sportscaster for 20 years, began his career calling games at Syracuse University, his alma mater. He is bilingual and speaks Mandarin Chinese, according to his online resume.
He did not respond to a request for comment on Twitter. Asian American Journalists Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch said on Twitter Lee "was more comfortable not doing this assignment" per an ESPN spokesperson.
White nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members clashed with counterprotesters in Charlottesville earlier this month during protests of the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. A counterprotester, Heather Heyer, was killed and 19 others were injured when a man allegedly linked to neo-Nazi beliefs reportedly drove his car into a crowd.
News of the unlikely coincidence gave social media users a rare chance to find glimmers of humor in an incident that sparked violence, a public affairs disaster at the White House and increasing calls to remove Confederate monuments nationwide.