ESPN has apologized for a number of skits shown Monday that depicted NFL players — most of them black men — being “sold” to fantasy football players – mostly white men — by an actual auctioneer.
“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 said in a statement to The Big Lead. “Without that context, we understand the optics could be portrayed as offensive, and we apologize.”
The auction was part of ESPN2’s “Fantasy Football Marathon,” and included white players like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. However, most of the players being auctioned were black and almost all of the buyers were white men.
“Certainly, a situation like this calls into question whether ESPN has enough people in leadership positions who would instinctively understand and make note of the potential reaction to this segment,” Matthew Zimmerman, an assistant professor of sport studies at Mississippi State University, told USA TODAY Sports via Facebook Messenger.