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Volume 24 No. 181
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ESPN Issues Apology After Fantasy Football Draft Auction Segment Draws Criticism

ESPN yesterday apologized after a player auction skit as part of its "Fantasy Sports Marathon" on Monday "drew criticism from some on social media, who said it resembled a slave auction," according to A.J. Perez of USA TODAY. While white players were "part of the draft, the footage of an auctioneer 'selling'" Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. "led to some on Twitter to voice their outrage." ESPN in a statement said, "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" (USA TODAY, 8/16). In N.Y., Mark Sanchez writes the entirety of the sketch "lasted less than 30 seconds, but the optics of the scene enraged many" (N.Y. POST, 8/16). In Charlotte, Langston Wertz Jr. writes auction drafts in fantasy football are "common, but seeing one like this, with the auctioneer holding a photo of the black players, attached to popsicle sticks, while selling them to a predominately white crowd was just...startling" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/16). Beckham yesterday tweeted that he was "speechless" after watching the ESPN segment. In N.Y., Pat Leonard notes Beckham was "not physically part of the bit." But his response "seemed to indicate he is equally as mortified as many are to see a white man auction a black man's services on a stage, in front of a predominantly white crowd, no less" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/16). In DC, Des Bieler noted other NFLers, such as Saints DE Cameron Jordan and Rams DE Dominique Easley, also "expressed dismay and confusion with ESPN’s staged auction" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/15).

MAKING A MOUNTAIN OUT OF A MOLE HILL? ESPN’s Will Cain said he does not believe the "criticism of the fantasy football auction draft was warranted in any way." Cain said, "If you are offended by that, you are addicted to being offended.” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said, “We got Dave Roberts, our boss, who everybody respects. If you don't look him up, the brother's resume is impeccable, it speaks for himself. You got Rob King, who runs ‘SportsCenter,’ you got Leon Carter, the former editor of the New York Daily News, you have an abundance of African-Americans in this company, you have talent on-air like yours truly. All you had to do was ask, because I can assure you if somebody had told me that is the idea what we were doing, I would have said this is how it looks. This is how it is going to be embraced and stomached. You do not want to do that” ("First Take," ESPN, 8/16).