ESPN issued an apology for a segment in which an auctioneer “sold” both white and black players. The segment attracted a lot of backlash, with many people claiming that the auctions resembled a slave auction on social media.
“In fantasy football, auction draughts are popular, and ESPN’s segments simulated an auction draught with a diverse slate of top professional football players.” We understand the optics may be interpreted as offensive without that context, and we apologise,” ESPN said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports.
The episode aired in the aftermath of a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, by several white nationalist parties. White nationalist activists marched on the University of Virginia campus on Friday, shouting racial epithets and threatening counter-protestors, and there were numerous protests and clashes over the weekend. When a white nationalist crashed his car into a group of counter-protestors, the situation became violent, and one person was killed.
In fantasy sports, auction draughts are fairly popular.
Each team in an auction league has the chance to bid on a player, with the highest bidder winning the player’s services. That could raise ethical questions in and of itself, and yes, white players were “sold” as well. However, ESPN’s decision to hire an auctioneer to sell black men is egregiously bad optics and demonstrates a lack of equity in whoever accepted the segment.
NFL players, such as Odell Beckham Jr., have expressed displeasure with the network’s decision to air the auction segment. In the segment, Beckham was one of the players who was ‘auctioned off.’
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It wasn’t just football players who spoke up—Kevin Durant, for one, didn’t seem to like the episode.
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