Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Unwise Prudence

It is, Fox News' Howie Kurtz remarks, not only "political correctness" but also "almost a parody." The New York Times reports

ESPN has removed an announcer from its broadcast of the University of Virginia’s first football game next month because he has the same name as a Confederate general memorialized in statues that are being taken down across the country.

The network announced late Tuesday that the announcer, Robert Lee, a part-time employee who calls about a dozen college football and basketball games a year for ESPN, would no longer participate in the broadcast of the Sept. 2 game in Charlottesville, Va., which became the center of violent clashes this month during a white supremacist gathering.

White nationalists and neo-Nazis flooded into Charlottesville, marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches, to protest the city’s plan to remove a statue of the Confederacy’s top general, Robert E. Lee.

Well, okay. We know that removal of the statue was more a pretext than the reason, but never mind. The Times continues

“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,” ESPN said in a 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.”

It's a shame that ESPN has chosen to make it an issue by making it a topic of conversation.  At first glance, the network's decision seems wrongheaded. At second and third glance, it looks worse.

If looks don't deceive, this guy is of east Asian descent.  There would be no purpose for the left to protest his broadcast even if he looked like a descendant of a shipmate on the Mayflower. And the right, if anything, would be partial to a guy named Robert Lee, even though he's not Robert E. Lee.

Admittedly, that merely means ESPN's decision was foolish. However, it could give fuel to the fire of the aggrieved right, always on the lookout for "political correctness."  And of course, they will misinterpret it as giving in to "liberals" rather than a highly successful, overly cautious corporation allowing the profit motive to get in the way of common sense.

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