Especially in today’s charged social landscape, doing anything to rock the boat or cause a controversy — even without meaning to — can go over very badly.
ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, has been walking the line between sports and social/pop-culture for years now, which makes it somewhat surprising that they decided to go with the angle that they did in a recent “Fantasy Football Marathon.”
ESPN did a fantasy football auction, basically bidding of the top fantasy football stars to the highest bidder. In a vacuum, it wouldn’t seem so bad, but consider the optics of the situation and also consider what’s going on in our country right now — whether it’s the Colin Kaepernick controversy or what recently happened in Charlottesville.
Tensions are high, and like it or not, racial tensions are high as well. That’s why it makes sense that Shaun King of the New York Daily News called this out, at least for its optics. It’s a crowd of white people bidding on a black man.
ESPN had to have been looking at this as a creative way to talk about fantasy football — a way to break up the monotony of coverage and do something different. At its core, nobody associated with this likely went into it with any ill intentions and they likely didn’t think about what it looked like.
But that’s the problem, they didn’t think about it.
ESPN is one of the most watched networks in the world, and sure, they’re allowed to slip up from time-to-time, but they do have a responsibility to at least act responsibly with their programming and at the very least think about how things come across to their vast audience.
As news anchor Will Kennedy pointed out, fantasy football auctions are totally a real thing, so it’s not like ESPN pulled this out of left field. The problem is the optics, though. The problem is the network didn’t take the time to think about what it looks like.
It wasn’t racist, but it was racially insensitive. And right now, our country needs less of that, especially coming from a major television network.