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ESPN Televised a Fantasy Football Auction and, Well, It's Really Bad!

White owners used to purchase slaves in a remarkably similar way.
Image via Twitter/@rjasonscales

Fantasy football is a big deal and with the season rapidly approaching, fantasy drafts are starting to pick up. Some drafts are just like the actual NFL one you might watch on television, with owners/teams selecting players in a predetermined order. Others, however, are done auction-style, with owners/teams being allotted a certain amount of money to bid on players as they are presented.

The actual draft—and the NFL Combine, for that matter—have frequently been compared to slave auctions because they feature NFL owners, who are generally white, evaluating the physicality and temperament of young, generally black men who have never been paid for their previous labors, and selecting them for their own. The concept of a draft in pro sports essentially strips athletes of their agency, and stacks the deck in a way that is, to put it generously, very management-friendly. These are not fringe discussions that people are unaware of, and certainly someone at the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports would have this on their radar.


And yet:

Holy shit, is this bad. Clearly ESPN was not intentionally making an allusion to slavery—because it simply cannot be that stupid—but it boggles the mind that someone, somewhere along the way as this segment was being produced, did not stop to consider that maybe having a bunch of white dudes "buy" black dudes would be a bad look. It's easy to get tunnel vision and not see how your football segment would come off poorly but also, like, have a brain, you know? Have a worldview that understands history and the moment we are currently living through.

Two days before this aired, a white supremacist drove his car through a crowd of people protesting a white supremacy and Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one woman. The racists were rallying in the first place to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. NFL players have once again begun to silently protest the national anthem in direct response to Charlottesville. The man who started his silent protest a year ago, Colin Kaepernick, remains unemployed, almost certainly because of his actions.

All of this is to say, racism is very much on the mind of not just the country at large but the sports world and the NFL specifically. This really should not have happened.