ESPN criticized for fantasy football auction

A.J. Perez
Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants
Getty Images

It's not the most popular form of fantasy football, but auction drafts are common.

However, ESPN2's approach to auctioning players as part of its Fantasy Sports Marathonon Monday night drew criticism from some on social media, who said it resembled a slave auction.

While white players -- like New England quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski -- were part of the draft, the footage of an auctioneer "selling" New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. led to some on Twitter to voice their outrage.

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@rjasonscales: Soooooo ESPN just did an "auction" sketch

@djstephfloss: ESPN sold Odell on an auction block to a crowd of White people. In 2017.

@DWash300: They hosted a slave auction on ESPN and mascaraed it as a NFL draft

"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," ESPN said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports.

The auction came after white nationalists led a rally in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, where a 32-year-old woman died and nearly 20 were injured when a car rammed into a group of counterprotesters.

"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.