If you’re on social media this morning, you probably know that ESPN is under fire for moving an announcer named Robert Lee off of the University of Virginia’s home opener football game. In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, earlier this month, it probably seemed like the right move at the time given that the announcer–coincidently–shares a name with the infamous Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
In fact, this isn’t as big a coincidence as it seems. There are literally thousands of people with that name. While exact numbers would be tough to calculate, a search on HowManyOfMe.com–which matches name searches with U.S. Census Bureau data–found 11,518 people named Robert Lee. A national search on WhitePages.com found similar results. “Robert” was among the top 10 most popular boys’ names in the 1970s and the 1980s, while “Lee” ranked No. 24 among top surnames, according to the 1990 U.S. census. Wikipedia has dozens of pages dedicated to Robert Lees and Bob Lees, including musician Robert Lee, who also happens to be Bruce’s brother.
Following the backlash, ESPN released a statement saying that reassigning the announcer was a “collective decision,” according to CNN Money. Given the sensitivity of the issue, it’s understandable why they did what they did. The only surprise is that this hasn’t come up before.