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ESPN Vice-President, Jon Skipper has sought to set the record straight on the decision to remove Asian-American sport’s commentator, Robert Lee from the coverage of a sport’s game in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The decision to remove Lee occurred because it was believed his name, which bears a resemblance to the Confederate General, Robert E. Lee, would cause some offence.
In a memo obtained by CNN, Skipper attempted to explain why the controversial decision was made:
Skipper has received some support for his decision. In an op-ed, a former ESPN Vice-President, Roxanne Jones, defended the decision to remove Lee from the broadcast, writing:
“We want to pretend that sports are a safe sanctuary from the world’s ugly problems, but that has always been a farce. Truth is, not even the glorious game of football can keep America’s toxic culture of bigotry, hate and violence at bay. It’s just too heavy a burden.”
Others, however, have been quick to criticise the network’s decision. Fox News’ Brit Hume has commented that the second paragraph of Skipper’s memo contradicted the first. Hume noted that if there was no concern that Lee’s name would cause offence, there would be no reason to presume it would be a distraction.
Stephen Bannon has been booted from his position as the White House Chief strategist following the Charlottesville tragedy and President Donald Trump’s alleged pandering to neo-nazis, white supremacists, and the alt-right.
Bannon confirmed the decision to Joshua Green, the author of Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency, saying:
“If there’s any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents – on Capitol Hill, in the media and in corporate America.”
White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, stated: “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”
A senior White House official told the Washington Examiner:
“I would say it is very unlikely that this decision was taken weeks ago, as has been reported. This was also not going to be a unilateral decision made by the chief of staff, but a decision that was taken by the president based upon those within the White House pressurizing the president to fire him.”
Trump’s White House has seen the departure of nine of its major staff, including Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Communications Director Mike Dubke, Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland, Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh, and National Security Advisor Mike Flynn.
Americans are recoiling from the tragic events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday. The tragic succession of events, which saw violence between the Unite the Right protesters and counter-protesters and culminated in a vicious car attack, left nineteen people injured and thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer dead.
On Monday, President Trump bowed to pressure to name and shame those whose ideology inspired yesterday’s hate crime. Trump stated:
“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.”
Political reactions have been swift and damning. Michael McCaul, Republican Congressman from Texas and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, tweeted:
“We must condemn the hate fueling the violence in #Charlottesville. It does not define us as Americans. Those affected are in my prayers.”
Republican Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, meanwhile, has called for the Department of Justice to investigate the events of Charlottesville as an act of domestic terrorism. Cruz stated:
“It’s tragic and heartbreaking to see hatred and racism once again mar our great Nation with bloodshed. Heidi’s and my prayers are with the loved ones of those killed and injured in the ongoing violence in Charlottesville. The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to speak their minds peaceably, but violence, brutality, and murder have no place in a civilized society. The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate. Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.”
At a press conference on Monday, Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas claims police had planned to move the Unite the Right protesters to the rear of Emancipation park. The protesters had originally agreed to cooperate with police. However, police were forced to alter their plans when protesters began entering the park at different locations.
The perpetrator of the attack, James Alex Fields, Jr., a self-confessed admirer of Adolf Hitler, has been charged with second-degree murder, malicious wounding, and failure to stop at the scene of an accident resulting in death. He has been denied bail.
A thirty-two-year-old woman has been killed, and nineteen others have been left with minor to life threatening injuries in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a day of protests between white nationalists, calling themselves “unite the right”, and counter-protesters culminated in violence.
The counter-protesters were reportedly celebrating driving the white supremacists from Emancipation Park when the attack occurred. Video footage shows a Dodge Charger accelerating into a crowd of counter-protesters. One witness claims the car was travelling at forty-miles-per-hour (sixty-four-kilometres-per-hour). Another witness, Brennan Gilmore, told NBC news:
“It was very clearly intentional. From the far end of the street, it accelerated, slowed down right before the crowd and then slammed on the gas through the crowd sending bodies flying. And then it reversed back into the street dragging bodies and clothes.”
After the incident, the driver reversed the car at high speed and fled the scene.
President Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, and First Lady Melania Trump have all condemned the violence. Speaking at his private golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump stated:
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. There’s no place in America (for this). What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”
Trump also stated on twitter:
“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one!”
Vice-President Mike Pence tweeted:
“I stand with @POTUS against hate & violence. U.S is greatest when we join together & oppose those seeking to divide us.”
First Lady Melania Trump also tweeted:
“Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence.”
Governor of Virginia, Terry McAullife, declared a state of emergency around Charlottesville which began at noon. Police, meanwhile, are treating the incident as a criminal homicide investigation. They have arrested the driver of the car, James Alex Fields, Jr., and are holding him on a variety of charges, including second-degree murder and malicious wounding.
McAullife directed a statement to the white supremacists, saying:
“You came here today to hurt people. And you did hurt people. My message is clear: we are stronger than you.”
He went on to say:
“I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today: My message is go home. You are not wanted in this Commonwealth. Shame on you … You are anything but a patriot.”
Police Chief, Al Thomas, has backed this up, stating that “premeditated violence that our community experienced today was completely unacceptable.”