An ongoing sports story, that has sparked debate across the country, has a Hudson Valley connection.

Robert Lee was scheduled to broadcast Saturday’s University of Virginia’s college football game on ESPN. However,  the “worldwide leader in sports” removed Lee from the game because he shares the same name as Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

Lee, who is Asian-American, was switched to another ESPN game because of the recent violence 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,” ESPN said in a statement.

Virginia's campus is in Charlottesville. However, the network faced a lot of backlash.

“ESPN really shot itself in the face this week, giving hysterical conservative commentators that already have an axe to grind with the network license to fire away,” Evan Grossman wrote for the New York Daily News.

Following the backlash, ESPN president John Skipper responded in an internal memo.

"There was never any concern — by anyone, at any level — that Robert Lee's name would offend anyone watching the Charlottesville game," Skipper said. "Among our Charlotte production staff there was a question as to whether — in these divisive times — Robert's assignment might create a distraction, or even worse, expose him to social hectoring and trolling."

Ironic that an attempt to avoid trolling led to trolling.

Now the local factor, since 2003 Lee has been a play-by-play announcer for Time Warner Cable. Many of his games featured Hudson Valley high schools. Lee has also voiced a number of football championships at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.

Lee is also the voice on radio and t.v. for Siena men’s and women’s basketball, Marist’s biggest college rival.

On a personal note, when Time Warner broadcasted a Siena basketball game, Lee would move from radio to t.v., CBS 6 sports anchor Kelly O’Donnell would then slide over to Siena radio and I filled in for O’Donnell as the sports anchor on CBS.

What do you think about ESPN’s decision to pull Lee from the game because of his name?

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