ESPN Apologizes After 9/11 Mixup

Sports network ESPN has apologized for using footage of pre-9/11 New York City during a broadcast. As part of its coverage of a Miami Heat v New York Knicks game on April 30th in Madison Square Garden, ESPN used footage of New York that clearly showed the World Trade Center, or Twin Towers, in the background. The iconic buildings collapsed on the morning of September 11th, 2001.

Social media users were quick to spot the buildings, and many asked why ESPN was using such old footage, particularly when it is a reminder of the worst attack ever to take place on American soil. Users also pointed out that the skyline of lower Manhattan has changed significantly in the last 20 years. The old World Trade Center, which consisted of two of the tallest buildings in America, has been replaced with the One World Trade Center, a single skyscraper that dominates the Big Apple’s skyline today.

ESPN responded to criticisms with a short statement that read, “We mistakenly used an old stock image, and we apologize.”

Showing pre-9/11 images of New York on screen has been a thorny issue over the past 20 or so years. Some TV and film producers edited films and removed images of the Towers, while others kept them in place. Film critic Christy Lemire wrote in 2011 that filmmakers did not know what approach to take in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. She points out that movies, including Zoolander and Serendipity, were edited post-production to remove the Twin Towers because producers believed the images would be too painful for an American public that was still in shock.

By contrast, in 2002, “City by the Sea,” starring Robert De Niro and James Franco, was released and contained several images of the World Trade Center. Movies began to incorporate the tragedy into their storylines and imagery as the years passed. In “25th Hour,” directed by Spike Lee, Edward Norton’s character spends time in a bar frequented by firefighters, and 9/11 imagery is seen adorning the bar’s walls.