ESPN apologized for a fantasy football auction segment that viewers complained had disturbing echoes of a slave auction. The Aug. 14 segment featured a white auctioneer “auctioning” off football players to a group of largely white males.
For those of us who aren’t fantasy sports savvy, Sports Illustrated explained, “Auction drafts are somewhat common in fantasy sports. In auction leagues, each team is given the opportunity to bid on a player, with the highest bidder securing the player’s services. That in itself could present ethical concerns, and yes, white players were ‘sold’ too.”
NFL player Odell Beckham Jr., who was featured in the segment, tweeted he was “speechless” over the segment.
ESPN apologized, telling Gannett-owned sports news site Big Lead, “Auction drafts are a common part of fantasy football, and ESPN’s segments replicated an auction draft with a diverse slate of top professional football players. Without that context, we understand the optics could be portrayed as offensive, and we apologize.”
iMediaEthics has written to ESPN to ask how the segment made it to air and if the apology was read on air. ESPN pointed to its statement, and said it was issued to the media.
A clip of the auction segment is below.
Soooooo ESPN just did an "auction" sketch 🤔 pic.twitter.com/zvezCItems
— Jᴀsᴏɴ (@rjasonscales) August 14, 2017
— Odell Beckham Jr (@OBJ_3) August 15, 2017
See below a collection of tweets about the segment being compared to a slave auction. The Root wrote that ESPN “loses its damn mind and televises slave auction for NFL Players.”
— The Root (@TheRoot) August 15, 2017
Nobody at @espn was like maybe, ESPECIALLY RIGHT NOW, is not a good time to auction of a Black man to White people, slave style?!?!?
— DJ Steph Floss (@djstephfloss) August 15, 2017
Looks like what it is. A slave auction. Despicable. Whoever put this on air should be fired immediately.
— ON CASH (@therealrulez) August 15, 2017
— 2loaded (殿下) (@2Loaded_) August 15, 2017
ESPN just held a slave auction on TV. https://t.co/KnOEn5GUF3
— Marx & Recreation (@QGotNoRings) August 15, 2017
Hat Tip: Steve Bien-Aime
UPDATE: 8/17/2017 11:30 AM