This auction on ESPN provoked lots of backlash.

A sketch ESPN created to promote fantasy football produced some major backlash Tuesday, forcing the company to eventually apologize (albeit in a limited way), and leading to later criticism from the likes of Giants’ receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and others. This was done as part of their returning fantasy football marathon, but it didn’t get the expected result. Here’s the sketch, which featured a live “auction” with fantasy football experts holding up paddles to bid on different players:

This took a lot of criticism, especially for its seeming similarity to historical slave auctions:

Here’s the statement ESPN sent to BlackSportsOnline’s Robert Littal and others after this took major criticism:

“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.”

That’s a pretty halfhearted apology, though, and it’s notable that ESPN was put on further blast by Beckham after a follower tweeted this sketch at him:

It’s understandable how ESPN came up with this concept; as their statement notes, auction drafts are a thing in fantasy football. But it’s also very understandable why this took backlash, and why the optics of a bunch of people who were mostly white men explicitly bidding on a black athlete in an in-person auction didn’t look great to the wider world. This didn’t accomplish what ESPN intended, and for that alone, it should have been more carefully considered.

[Jessie Karangu on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.