If there’s one place that white America holds sacred, it’s the football field. As one of the few genuine American sports still being practiced today, football has often be devoid of the race conversation —when it should really be at the forefront.
Case in point: On Monday, ESPN2 had a Fantasy Sports Marathon program in which a small audience of white people auctioned for players they’d like to have on their fantasy football teams. In said skit the auctioneer held paddles with printed faces of players that included Odell Beckham Jr., Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Upon Beckham Jr. being sold for $34 to a white participant, socially media was rightfully outraged. Akin to slave auctions —and that creepy scene in Get Out— the segment was triggering, despite having white players up for sale as well. And while some were saying that POC were being too sensitive about the issue, Beckham Jr. and Kevin Durant hopped on Twitter to comment.
ESPN also issued an apology for the tone-deaf segment. “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,” they said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. “Without that context, we understand the optics could be portrayed as offensive, and we apologize.”
We’re just gonna scoot past that half-ass apology and get the crux of the conversation.
For too long football has harbored racism in its recruiting process, contracts, traditions and fan culture. No, everything about the sport is not bad— it’s actually quite enjoyable to watch on a Sunday with a cold beer.
But when incidents so blatantly problematic like auctioning off black bodies or being more outraged about a black man not standing for the national anthem than black people being unlawfully killed by law enforcement, are the standard, one has to rethink the culture.