ESPN wanted to avoid controversy.
They got more controversy.
Even if you believe ESPN on face here about protecting a broadcaster, it’s still a self-inflicted wound and a decision made out of fear of negative press. The company would have been far better served with Lee doing the game and dealing with the one-day fallout (if you can call it that) of jokes and snickers. This is obviously easy for me to say in hindsight, given I’m not the one dealing with it.