- DraftKings faced backlash for introducing a “Never Forget” betting parlay focused on New York teams playing on 9/11, which was quickly removed after public criticism.
- The sportsbook operator apologized, emphasizing their respect for the significance of 9/11 and its impact on affected families.
- While the sports industry has previously mismanaged 9/11 references, there are examples, such as ESPN’s retrospectives and MLB Network’s special, which show it’s possible to commemorate the tragic event respectfully in the sports arena.
DraftKings, a prominent sportsbook operator, found itself at the heart of a major controversy after unveiling a betting parlay titled “Never Forget,” centered around New York teams playing on 9/11.
The questionable promotion triggered immediate backlash on social platforms, with several Twitter users sharing screenshots of the ill-advised parlay between Sunday night and Monday morning.
DraftKings swiftly pulled down the promotion in response to the criticism.
Addressing the issue, DraftKings extended its apologies via a statement to Michael Silverman of The Boston Globe:
“We sincerely apologize for the featured parlay that was shared briefly in commemoration of 9/11. We respect the significance of this day for our country and especially for the families of those who were directly affected.”
The sports world is no stranger to mishandling references to the tragic events of 9/11. The DraftKings debacle adds to a series of controversial incidents where sports figures and broadcasters made insensitive remarks or displays related to that fateful day.
Past instances include:
- Shaun O’Hara’s dubious comparison of Tom Brady’s retirement to 9/11 and the John F. Kennedy assassination on NFL Network.
- A MLB on Fox broadcast overlaying Baseball Night In America graphics on top of the 9/11 memorial.
- CBC’s Ron MacLean likening hockey players to 9/11 first responders in 2012.
- Bobby Valentine’s inappropriate 9/11 comments on MLB on TBS in 2013, which drew sharp criticism from Keith Olbermann.
Despite these missteps, there have been instances where the sports industry commemorated 9/11 tastefully. As the 20th anniversary of the attacks approached in 2021, ESPN provided insightful retrospectives on the sports connections related to the tragic events. MLB Network aired a special called Remembering the Game for New York, reflecting on the Braves-Mets game that occurred 10 days post-attacks.
The It Was Said: Sports podcast, narrated by Doc Rivers, discussed the influence of the 9/11 attacks on the sporting community. The episode featured Joe Buck recounting a poignant poem his father, Jack, recited on-air during a Cardinals’ broadcast on Sept. 17, 2001 – the day MLB returned to action.
In light of these examples, it’s clear that while it’s possible to pay respectful homage to the legacy of 9/11 in the sports domain, gambling promotions may not be the right avenue.
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