Political Correctness

ESPN's Robert Lee Decision Should Be Wake-Up Call About the Perpetual Outrage Machines

Fringe voices shouldn't drive decision-making, even if they're loud.

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@RobertLeePXP/Twitter

ESPN has pulled announcer Robert Lee from doing the play-by-play at the University of Virginia's football home opener in Charlottesville this weekend. The channel says it made this decision while "the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name."

"In that moment it felt right to all parties," ESPN said in a statement. "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." The outlet claims that the decision was mutual, and a network executive later commented that Lee could be "subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else." The executive insists there were no "politically correct efforts" or race issues. "Just trying to be supportive of a young guy who felt it best to avoid the potential zoo," the executive wrote.

This ought to be a turning point in the debate over "PC culture." It raises the important question of how much it is the perception of potential outrage rather than the outrage itself that drives these disputes. Would there really have been enough anger over Lee announcing the UVa game to make removing him the more "politically correct" option?

Sure, there may have been some harmless jokes about his name, but so what? The ESPN executive said he was worried about memes, but ESPN loves memes and understands how trafficking in them can increase exposure and name recognition.

Someone, somewhere, might actually get mad about Lee's name. (Someone, somewhere, is always getting mad about everything.) But now people are mad that Lee isn't doing the play-by-play. (For a news organization to assume such a juicy piece of news wouldn't have leaked is naïve, to say the least.) The left-wing perpetual outrage machine has sparked a resurgence in the right-wing outrage machine, which is now running through the "ESPN pulled an Asian Robert Lee from Charlottesville" cycle.

Here's a better approach: Don't make decisions like this based on the memes people might pass around on Facebook. The outrage machines are noisy, but that doesn't mean they're big. A wise media outlet will never assume that the loudest voices are the most popular ones.

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108 responses to “ESPN's Robert Lee Decision Should Be Wake-Up Call About the Perpetual Outrage Machines

  1. Why don’t you just go by Bob instead of Robert?

    No way! Why should I change? He’s the one who sucks.

    1. Bobby Lee? Nothing objectionable there!

      1. Hey, don’t you dare say anything bad about Bobby Lee.

      2. What’s rong with Robby Ree?

        1. He looks Asian, so i figured he would get a pass!!

    2. He could go by Robby. Robby Lee is a good name.

      1. Hair doesn’t cut it, so to speak.

    3. I told those fudgepackers I like wearing grey suits.

      1. That reminds me I have to pick up fudge sickles from the store.

  2. Perhaps if he called himself Robert Ree?

  3. I’d like to say it’s ludicrous to think anyone would have made an issue out of his presence, or that anyone would have taken that person who did seriously, but…

    1. Imagine the outrage at ESPN if they had to report on the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, when the US admiral was Willis “Ching” Lee (culturally appropriating a derogatory nickname, but not an actual Asian-American), a distant relative of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, in command of the US battleship USS Washington (named after the US state named after the slave-holding general from the slave state Virginia), and whose teammate on the US Olympic team when he won 5 gold medals for sharpshooting was L. Spooner (who shares a last name and first initial with the noted anarchist Lysander Spooner).

      Luckily for ESPN and the USA, Lee sank the Japanese battleship Kirishima and won the battle, possibly saving the war in the Pacific for the Allies. Or maybe not, if ESPN is as anti-American as they seem sometimes.

  4. “Just trying to be supportive of a young guy who felt it best to avoid the potential zoo,”

    Fuck. You.

    First, I doubt very seriously this guy asked for this, it’s some shit you came up with and *he* agreed to support *you*. But if you’re telling me this guy is the one who came to you asking to be switched to a different game – instead of quietly supporting his request, you made a fucking announcement to the whole wide world about it and turned the thing into a zoo? You’re the one who made this thing an issue, you piece of shit, don’t be telling me “it’s sad that this is an issue”, you’re fucking jerking off right now thinking about how much publicity your virtue-signaling is getting aren’t you, you sick bastard?

    1. GREAT POST!!!!

  5. A wise media outlet will never assume that the loudest voices are the most popular ones.

    I found the problem.

  6. ESPN was niggardly in its explanation of why they thought removing him was a good idea.

    1. + 1 wrenching.

    2. Not only is it niggardly of ESPN to do this, they’re heading down the slippery slope of yellow journalism with this slant. Once there’s a chink in your wall, expect it to be exploited.

      1. They should have kept it zipped.

        1. Or nipped it in the bud.

  7. I am so pissed off I can’t stop shitting!

    1. I think you better pull over.

  8. If his name had been something along the lines of Joseph Stay-Lin, he would have been fine to proceed.

    1. Or Mohammed Lee.

      1. That’s Mohammed A. Lee. I mean, has anyone ever said his name before without the middle initial?

        1. He would have been just another Mohammed then.

  9. I’ve not seen ANYBODY on the Right mad that Robert Lee isn’t announcing a game. The reaction from the Right is, by and large, “Jesus how fucking retarded is ESPN that they would do something THIS stupid?” It’s more bemusement than outrage.

  10. Don’t make decisions like this based on the memes people might pass around on Facebook.

    Why not? TPTB make *lots* of decisions based on what people *might* do.

  11. The outlet claims that the decision was mutual, and a network executive later commented that Lee could be “subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else.”

    So now he’ll be subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else for being worried about memes and jokes and who knows what else. On the internet, it’s memes and jokes and who knows what else all the way down.

    1. Robert Lee + Neo Nazis = Rule 34!

      1. I am pretty sure that’s already in the SugarFree canon.

    2. “Memes… all the way down.”

      Now I am picturing a tiny kitten standing on the back of a big dog standing on the back of an elephant standing on the back of a giant turtle with a Photoshopped POTUS from the eclipse pointing up at the whole stack.

      Ad infinitum.

  12. When I saw this running around the web, I thought it was fake news, because I couldn’t believe anyone who earns what an ESPN executive makes could be this fucking stupid.

  13. No one should listen to fringe voices? I guess libertarians are fucked.

  14. a network executive later commented that Lee could be “subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else.”

    To be fair, that executive is named “Utokin Toomey”.

  15. “”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.””

    Said the organization who made it a topic of conversation and made it an issue.

    1. That makes it a “dam* shame.

      1. *damn* dammit!

      2. I’m flooded with emotions from your comment.

  16. The executive insists there were no … race issues.

    That’s what they *all* say. Let the lawsuits begin.

  17. He might as well change his name to Adolf Hitler and be done with it.

  18. One does not simply predict tomorrow’s memes.

    1. What if I told you that memes are gonna get made regardless

    2. But one does, very simply, predict tomorrow’s Tony comments.

  19. Coincidentally, NR has an interesting article about the ineptitude of ESPN:

    “Sports-media analyst Clay Travis put it bluntly: “Middle America wants to pop a beer and listen to sports talk, they don’t want to be lectured about why Caitlyn Jenner is a hero, Michael Sam is the new Jackie Robinson of sports, and Colin Kaepernick is the Rosa Parks of football. ESPN made the mistake of trying to make liberal social media losers happy and as a result lost millions of viewers.”

    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/…..-hit-rocks“

    1. I wonder where else in the world it’s acceptable to demand that society let you sit back and be a drunk, lazy asshole in peace.

      1. My livingroom? Or the chambers of the Seattle City Council. The only difference there is they demand society let them sit back and be a drunk, lazy asshole, but have everything provided by the taxpayers. So I guess there’s a fundamental difference.

        1. I mean, it’s my aspiration to be drunk and lazy, but insisting that people I disagree with politically never show up on my TV or talk to me? A bit entitled I think.

          1. “fat drink and stupid is no way to go through life”

          2. Yes, I’m entitled to spend my leisure time however I like. And I’m entitled to change the channel on my TV any time I like. ESPN is NOT entitled to my attention.

            There are times when I very much enjoy politics, and times when it’s inappropriate or just plain annoying. That’s because I have a life of my own, and it doesn’t center around politics. I know, that makes me an “extremist”.

            1. I’m just making fun of the precious snowflakes who just want to get fat and watch grown men get concussions and grab ass without any actual thinking entering the equation.

              1. Well, I gotta concede that such people exist. I’m related to some of them.

              2. I’m just making fun of the precious snowflakes who just want to get fat and watch grown men get concussions and grab ass without any actual thinking entering the equation.

                That pretty well describes me and most other healthy adults during the time I carve out for sports and entertainment.

                But the “not thinking” part is way off base. Lots of sports fans think very, very deeply about sports. Every bit as deeply as people who treat politics as a form of entertainment think about that.

                1. I know. I lost my point somewhere. I was sort of imagining Japanese politicians bending over backward to help out those “middle Japanese” who just want to, like, sit back and chill.

          3. I don’t really see much wrong with wanting the Entertainment SPorts Network that you are paying for to simply be about entertainment and sports.

            Of course your only recourse is to stop paying for it.

            1. Is it possible to get away from ESPN without cutting cable completely?

              1. I don’t know. I rarely watch sports and haven’t had cable for over 10 years.

              2. Dan, you can cut cable and still have access to cable channels via streaming by using a service like SlingTV, and there is a non-ESPN version.

                However, you would probably be better off using a streaming device that allows you to connect directly to your modem, like a Roku 2 or 3.

              3. I guess if you got the most basic package which is like local channels only. Otherwise ESPN is always there and it’s the single biggest chunk of your cable bill.

          4. As always your an idiot. What does ESPN stand for?
            You want to watch politically stuff – isn’t that Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, or what every you dream of in your head?

            So in your view, people should never be able to escape political talk?

            People don’t have an issue once in a while but it’s constant on ESPN now.

            Go back to you basement.

        1. Yes. And what a fine job they’re doing.

          1. Well they did annex the Crimea.

      2. “I wonder where else in the world it’s acceptable to demand that society let you sit back and be a drunk, lazy asshole in peace.”

        Pretty much everywhere in the world. Have you ever been out of the basement?

      3. The people he’s talking about are not drunken layabouts. They’re working people who want to relax after a hard day. You know, people you despise and won’t talk to.

        1. Working people who keep insisting that what they really want to do is pick tomatoes all day.

      4. In addition to being entertaining and a form of escapism (which are good things from time-to-time), sports provide a (usually) low-stakes outlet for our more tribal and collectivist instincts. That’s also a good thing, because high-stakes tribalism and collectivism usually ends badly for someone.

        Sometimes politics and sports intersect in ways that shouldn’t and/or can’t be ignored, and some people may find the social and political undercurrents that run through sports interesting. That’s fine. But there is nothing wrong with people who don’t want sports and politics to mix any more than necessary. I’d even say that it’s healthy.

        1. Some might argue that civil rights is not merely politics but is about the ongoing project of increasing human equality and well-being in this country, and that heterosexual white men who want to ignore it are rightly criticized for their moral indifference.

          Colin what’s-his-face protested the way he did precisely because of who and how large the audience was. Of course people who don’t give a crap about civil rights would prefer it happen only where they don’t have to see it.

          1. rightly criticized for their moral indifference

            This point actually made me think. To what degree are people morally obligated to fight injustices that they haven’t actually perpetrated and contributed to? Note that I reject the notion that someone who is just going about their lives as best they can bears responsibility for systemic injustices simply because of the color of their skin, or their gender, or whatever else, so if you are going to argue that they are part of the problem simply because they are white heterosexual men, then we’re going to be at an impasse. But put that to the side. I’m not inclined to look very kindly on someone that is completely indifferent to the suffering of others, but there is more suffering and injustice out there than there is moral energy in any one person – how do you decide which issues to care about and which to ignore? Whatever is suddenly popular in the larger culture? How is that moral? Are you going to deny people any break or escape? Are you going to deny people the ability to prioritize their concerns? And how much praise are you going to give people who posture and signal in ways you approve of but who don’t do anything else of consequence, and thereby, how much praise are you really withholding from someone who doesn’t engage in that posturing and signaling?

            1. “To what degree are people morally obligated to fight injustices that they haven’t actually perpetrated and contributed to? “
              I can’t speak to your morality, as that’s between you and your chosen deity and/or moral system.

              That said, have you heard of Kitty Genovese? She was a woman murdered in 1964. A man that had followed her home attacked her, stabbing her with a knife. He ran away and returned ten minutes later to finish the job. Traditionally the story is told as there being over 30 witnesses, but in 2016 the story changed a little. But what’s not in dispute is that there was a large number of witnesses, that none helped her after the first attack, and none prevented the second attack.

              In short, a woman died because a large number of people did not feel they were morally obligated to intervene in an injustice in which they were not the perpetrator and had not contributed to.

              So to adapt Burke’s quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for neutral men to do nothing.”

            2. As a fan of laziness and a skeptic of activism, my personal line is drawn only when someone indifferent to social wrongs starts bitching about how he is the real victim.

        2. Just as I’d prefer to go through life never having to hear boring people drone on about stupid boring sports. But I’d never have the presumption to demand its erasure.

      5. You don’t get out much do you? Some simple answers to your question would include whole swathes of the Caribbean, most of Africa, portions of South America, and all of southern Europe. But the Europeans take it one step further and expect to be subsidized.

      6. We don’t have to demand or expect it, but ESPN seems to not know their own audience very well.

    2. Took them a long time to figure this out. I’ve been posting this for years.
      People just want to watch sports. It’s an escape.

  20. A bunch of rich white liberals discriminated against an oriental guy in the name of fighting racism? Inconceivable!

    1. Asians don’t count because they do not back the “cause”.

      1. Can’t imagine why not…

  21. I guess the Asian comedian Bobby Lee will never work again.

  22. Hey yo, they gots Asians in the Confederacy!

    1. You never heard of Christopher Wren Bunker and Stephen Bunker, the eldest sons of Chang and Eng Bunker, the original “Siamese Twins”, joined different Confederate cavalry units. In 1864, Christopher Wren Bunker was captured, and was sent to Camp Chase

      Bunker family in Confederacy

  23. Streisand Effect in action.

  24. I heard the Browns let us down and “took the knee”. Git woke, Cleveland!

  25. Yet another chink in ESPN’s journalistic armor.

    1. [grabs Swiss doll and pulls the string on its ass that narrows the doll’s gaze]

  26. Has anyone ever said “Robert Lee” and not “Robert E. Lee” when referring to the Confederate general?

    It actually took me a minute to see what this was all about because if I don’t see the “E”, I don’t think of the general.

  27. To be fair, Asians are pretty racist…against other Asians.

    1. Not as bad as Latin America though. And much of their issues are less race and more history. Reminds me of the time in Vietnam I needed to use a public restroom, Didn’t have any Dong and tried to give the little old lady attendant some Yen. That was a mistake.

  28. Good decision. Both the people watching this game would have been outraged.

  29. I wonder how many people are triggered by “The Weight” nowadays.

    1. Soon to go the way of Blazing Saddles.

  30. It’s spelt “Robert Lee” but it’s pronounced “Throatwobbler Mangrove.”

  31. yo Ed Krayewski

    have the guts to define these outrage groups of both sides…..BUT YOU WONT

    1. name them………

  32. Assumed: this gentleman comes from Chinese roots, and his family name is actually “Li,” which is the most popular surname in the world.

    Here is the outrage: a miscarriage of justice has occured. Instead of hyper-shelterism due to fear of “Lee-ism,” he should have been removed because he could have been triggered by racist slurs over him being Mongoloid. This is a horrible tragedy: a trigger mis-fire. ESPN should issue a press release declaring Mr. Li’s true vulnerability, and fire him on that basis forever.

    There is no truth to the rumor that Robert E. Lee of West Point fame was actually Chinese.

    1. Are you sure? He was second in his class at West Point.

  33. His last official act was to announce that there was someone at the front gate looking for a “Joel Rifkin”.

  34. Stop heeding the whims of the few that WILL ALWAYS have contempt for anything they can think up just to get attention. That’s how Hitler gained control!

  35. Nice try, but you fake libertarian assholes at Reason at part of the group of people fomenting this hysteria and insanity, and many of us are fully aware that you’re doing it on purpose.

    You can’t spend a week and a half telling us “take down all the monuments to people we and our friends don’t like, and there’s no such thing as a slippery slope either”, and then try to distance yourselves from the rest of your insane friends in the mainstream media when they go careening right off the slope. That won’t fly.

  36. This story does not bode well for this guy: http://www.georgewallace.net/

  37. No one should listen to fringe voices? I guess libertarians are fucked.
    My recent post: PBN Builder Review
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  38. It’s spelt “Robert Lee” but it’s pronounced “Throatwobbler Mangrove.”
    My recent post: Image of Human Super Bundle Review

  39. It should be a wake up call to let us all know that the number of media types actually in possession of a clue is vanishingly small.

    Further, the general lack of outrage or pushback by the clued, and/or clueless media types tells us all that the lot of you are hopeless, worthless, and deserving of only scorn and mistrust.

    So, win-win, I say.

  40. Robert Lee is almost certainly a SOUTH Korean. The dots sometimes connect themselves.

  41. The funny thing is the Robert Lee went by “The General” in college. So I know he’s really scared of memes right?

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