ESPN apologizes for offending some with fantasy football auction
ESPN apologized in a statement sent Tuesday for airing a fantasy football auction that some found to be offensive because of their feeling that it was too similar to a slave auction.
Teams in fantasy football leagues are often formed in one of two ways: via a draft system, where participants select players one at a time, or via an auction, where participants are given a “salary cap” and bid on players using their theoretical money. ESPN decided to air their version of an auction Monday, and that’s led to some backlash.
Shaun King, who is a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement, sent this tweet that included a video clip from the auction. He demanded an apology from ESPN.
Apologize now for doing a sketch where you auctioned a Black man off to the highest bidder. pic.twitter.com/D8SC1cjhBU
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) August 15, 2017
King demanded an apology and received one.
“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,” ESPN said in a statement to The Big Lead. “Without that context, we understand the optics could be portrayed as offensive, and we apologize.”
Though ESPN was being thoughtful and respectful in apologizing, many wonder whether that was even necessary. What ESPN was doing was portraying a live fantasy football auction, which is something football fans of all races participate in every single year. All NFL players — white and black alike — are eligible to be selected by fantasy football participants. Yes, even Tom Brady and Matt Ryan get auctioned off in similar fashion. King and other critics probably did not understand that context, leading to their criticism. Though with a white auctioneer and all white people doing the bidding on mostly black athletes, it’s understandable why many would feel offended.
Still, ESPN does not want to offend anyone, which is why they ultimately apologized. If they televise a similar segment in the future, they may want to consider changing the optics and execution of the bit.