“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. “Without that context, we understand the optics could be portrayed as offensive, and we apologize.”
The segments featured an auctioneer offering NFL players, some of whom were African American, up for bid to a group of fantasy football players, most of whom were white men. For many people, this came too close to resembling a slave auction. And the segment came two days after deadly violence around a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
One of the players featured in the segment, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., tweeted that he was “speechless.”
Others had plenty to say. Some, including Rams defensive end Dominique Easley and New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan were not happy about the segments. Others, including ESPN on-air personality Kenny Mayne, defended the network, often while acknowledging the bad “optics.”