‘Calm down’: ESPN apologizes for fantasy football draft auctioning ‘black men off to highest bidder’

ESPN issued an apology after coming under fire for the bad optics of a fantasy football segment featuring an auction draft.

Many criticized the scene, part of the 28-hour fantasy marathon, for resembling a modern-day slave auction as it seemed black players were “sold” to male bidders, who were mostly white.

“Apologize now for doing a sketch where you auctioned a black man off to the highest bidder,” New York Daily News journalist, Shaun King, tweeted.

Others also slammed the network for its bad idea and even worse timing, coming just days after white nationalists, anti-fascist protesters and other extreme groups clashed in Virginia over the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville park. The violence left three dead, including 32 year-old counter-protester Heather Heyer who died when 20 year-old James Alex Fields allegedly drove his car into a crowd.

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“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,” the network apologized in a statement Tuesday. “Without that context, we understand the optics could be portrayed as offensive, and we apologize.”

In the tweeted video segment, an auctioneer announced, “Next on the auction block, we have Odell Beckham Jr.”

The piece ends when the black New York Giants wide receiver is “sold” for $34 to a white man called “Shiny Top.”

But many on social media pushed back on the narrative, pointing out that white NFL players were also being auctioned and the spoof was a non-issue.

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Frieda Powers

Senior Staff Writer
[email protected]

Originally from New York, Powers graduated from New York University and eventually made her way to sunny South Florida where she has been writing for the BizPacReview team since 2015.
Frieda Powers

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