August 16th, 2017 – The marketing playbook was thrown on the ground as ESPN apologized for airing a fantasy football auction that many compared to an actual slave auction. While many people are familiar and comfortable with fighting over athletes to win their group’s fantasy league, seeing a white auctioneer stand on a stage holding photos of black people’s heads on sticks left many people uncomfortable.
The segment was part of a 28-hour marathon on ESPN2 called Fantasy Sports Marathon. The bit found Alan Wheeler as the auctioneer, and reactions rolled in quickly once star athletes including Odell Beckham Jr. popped up on the screen. The New York Giants wide receiver ended up going to a white man for a whopping $34.
White athletes were also available during the auction – ESPN additionally shared video of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady being propped up for bidding.
Comparisons to real events as well as those depicted in films, however, had already made the rounds on social media. Jordan Peele’s horror hit Get Out was referenced showing the modern, twisted use of slave auctions.
Golden State Warrior Kevin Durant and writer/activist Shaun King were amongst many high profile people calling the event out and asking ESPN to issue an apology.
The fantasy draft auction happened amidst a difficult time for the country as a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia left one dead and 19 injured. While the debate over content and timing continued, ESPN released a statement saying:
“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.”
What do you think? Was this a normal, fun sports activity or a bad decision that evoked pain? Funny or Offensive? Vote and comment now…