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ESPN: What’s in a name?

Sean W. Cooper, Assistant Opinion Editor

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Last week, ESPN announced that it would find a different announcer for the University of Virginia’s opening football home game because—get this—the announcer who had initially been appointed is named Robert Lee.

If I could just write one word in response to this instead of a full article my response would be, “Really?” However, seeing as The Seahawk is a newspaper and not a Twitter account, I will proceed to write a full article.

Some joke that ESPN stands for “Every Story is Pathetic Nonsense.”  I beg to differ. I’d like to think that overall, ESPN is just as good a network as any other and it is obviously the most widely respected network among those who regularly watch sports.

This story, however, definitely qualifies as “pathetic nonsense.”

As Lisa Kudrow’s character Phoebe once said in an early season of the TV series Friends, “This is madness, it’s madness I tell you!” It is madness that anyone would think for a minute that they can remove someone just because his name bears likeness to a Confederate hero (or, depending on whom you ask, a villain, naturally).

If Lee drives a truck with Confederate flags flying and a bumper sticker that says “the South will rise,” then okay that’s a different story—but thus far, no such images of Lee’s method of transportation have been leaked or another association with the Confederacy.

I must admit it is quite ironic that a man with the name Robert Lee should be appointed as an announcer for a home game held in the very city where neo-Nazis just recently protested the removal of a statue of none other than Robert E. Lee.

On the other hand, it’s just a coincidence and nothing more than that. To make something so simple seem like an intentional act of racism is beyond absurd.

Let’s play Devil’s advocate for a minute here.  If the name “Robert Lee” is so offensive that he shouldn’t be allowed to speak at Virginia’s opening football game, why doesn’t ESPN just fire him altogether?  Why would they hire him in the first place?  Why in the world should a man with such a horrid name ever be allowed to hold a job, anyhow?

Of course, I say this only in jest.  It’s common sense that anybody should be able to have any job that they qualify for, regardless of their name.

Also, to the people who think it’s okay to discriminate against people based solely on their names: How would you like it if an employer decided to hire a “John” instead of a “Shaniqua” just because the former is a “more professional-sounding” name?  It’s the same principle, just in a different context.

The point is, ladies and gentlemen, ESPN has made a mistake—but then again, it’s not really a “mistake,” per say, if it was intentional, so let’s just say they screwed up. They’re receiving plenty of backlash for their actions and they deserve just about every bit of it.

Every time we allow this sort of censorship, we are indulging who have little backbone and giving them power. We are feeding the giant gorilla that is political correctness and if we let it fester, we will be gravely reminded like an unsuspecting child at the zoo, just why we are not supposed to feed the animals.

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The news site of UNC Wilmington
ESPN: What’s in a name?