Leaked memo from ESPN president blames Robert Lee hoopla on 'someone with a personal agenda'

ESPN president John Skipper sent a memo to staff Wednesday to respond to criticism that came after the network's decision to remove a football announcer named Robert Lee was from an assignment at the University of Virginia because of his name.

The move was made in the wake of the recent protests in Charlottesville, but conservative commentators criticized ESPN for what they deemed political correctness gone awry, in part because Lee is Asian-American.

Clay Travis of the sports website Outkick the Coverage broke the news Tuesday in an article with the headline "MSESPN Pulls Asian Announcer Named Robert Lee Off UVa Game To Avoid Offending Idiots." "MSESPN" is a reference to what critics view as ESPN's liberal bias along the same lines of MSNBC.

A statement from an anonymous ESPN executive said the decision was simply made to avoid Lee becoming the subject of "memes and jokes and who knows what else."

Related: Confederate symbols that still remain across the U.S.:

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Confederate monuments that still remain across the country
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Confederate monuments that still remain across the country
A bronze statue, titled the Confederate SoldieR is viewed in downtown Alexandria, Virginia, on August 14, 2017. He stands in the middle of the street, his back to the nation's capital as he gazes southwards towards the bloody battlefields of the Civil War. Erected nearly 130 years ago, the bronze statue of an unarmed Confederate soldier sits at a busy intersection in Alexandria, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington,DC.The Alexandria statue, known as 'Appomattox,' is one of hundreds of similar monuments across the American South honoring the Confederate dead.Debate over what to do with these controversial symbols of the Confederacy has been simmering for years and is likely to intensify after boiling over into bloodshed at the weekend. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. Richards / TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY CHRIS LEFKOW- 'Pressure builds to remove Confederate statues following clashes over plans to pull down a monument to rebel commander Robert E. Lee in a Virginia city' (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A monument to former U.S. Vice President and Confederate General John Cabell Breckinridge stands outside the Old Courthouse in Lexington, Ky., U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 04: A view of the Jefferson Davis monument on May 4, 2017 in New Orleans, Loiusiana. The Louisiana House committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs voted Wednesday to advance House Bill 71 that would forbid the removal of Confederate monuments in Louisiana as the City Council in New Orleans tries to move three statues of Confederate luminaries from public spaces and into museums. Protests that have at times turned violent have erupted at the site of the Jefferson Davis Monument after the Battle at Liberty Place monument was taken down in the middle of the night on April 24. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A general view of the Confederate monument in Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia - completed in 1879 the monument is dedicated to those who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. (Photo by Epics/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, USA - MAY 7, 2017: A person in opposition to the removal of monuments to the Confederacy holds confederate flags against the Robert E. Lee statue in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Annie Flanagan for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE - DECEMBER 31: Belle Kinney's Confederate Women's Monument in War Memorial Plaza on December 31, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)
Farmville, VA - January 12 : A confederate monument stands across the street from Ruffner Hall at Longwood University. University President, W. Taylor Reveley IV is fond of saying the civil war ended at one end of Longwood's campus, and the modern civil rights era begin at the other end of campus. (Photo by Norm Shafer/ For The Washington Post via Getty Images).
A memorial to Confederate soldiers stands on the banks of the Ohio River in Brandenburg, Kentucky, U.S. May 29, 2017. The memorial was recently removed from the campus of the University of Louisville. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
A monument of Robert E. Lee, who was a general in the Confederate Army, is removed in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
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Skipper went further in explaining the decision, saying it was made by a production staff outside of Bristol, that Lee had expressed concern with the assignment, and blaming the hoopla over the decision on 'someone with a personal agenda.'"

Here is the memo, via Brian Stelter of CNN:

"Given the amount of media attention being generated by one of the countless, routine decisions our local production teams make every day, I wanted to make sure you have the facts. There was never any concern — by anyone, at any level — that Robert Lee's name would offend anyone watching the Charlottesville game.

"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. Since Robert was their primary concern, they consulted with him directly. He expressed some personal trepidation about the assignment and, when offered the chance to do the Youngstown State/Pitt game instead, opted for that game — in part because he lives in Albany and would be able to get home to his family on Saturday evening.

"I'm disappointed that the good intentions of our Charlotte colleagues have been intentionally hijacked by someone with a personal agenda, and sincerely appreciate Robert's personal input and professionalism throughout this episode."

The person with a "personal agenda" is likely a reference to Travis, who has often been critical of ESPN.

The Virginia Cavaliers' September 2 game against William & Mary, which Lee was set to broadcast, will be the first game in Charlottesville, Virginia, since a white nationalist rally was held there earlier this month to protest the city's decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. 

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