ESPN apologized Tuesday after it faced a barrage of criticism for airing a fantasy football segment in which players were “auctioned” to a group of mainly white male sports fans.
At best, the bit was found to be tone deaf in the aftermath of the events in Charlottesville over the weekend. At worst, it was labeled downright racist.
Here’s how the auction played out on ESPN:
Soooooo ESPN just did an “auction” sketch 🤔 pic.twitter.com/zvezCItems
— Jᴀsᴏɴ (@rjasonscales) August 14, 2017
ESPN sold Odell on an auction block to a crowd of White people. In 2017.
— DJ Steph Floss (@djstephfloss) August 15, 2017
They hosted a slave auction on ESPN and mascaraed it as a NFL draft
— David (@DWash300) August 15, 2017
Not everyone agreed that it was racially insensitive. Some on Twitter defended the sketch, noting that fantasy football auction drafts are common this time of year.
However, enough people threw a flag on the segment for ESPN to respond and apologize.
The network told USA Today in a statement:
“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.”
It should be noted that white players were also included in the auction draft, but only footage of the auctioneer “selling” a black player was aired.
The auction was part of ESPN’s “Fantasy Sports Marathon” leading up to the start of the NFL season.