The commercial was to be produced by one of ESPN's ad agencies, Anomaly, New York. The casting call memo was put out by Liz Lewis Casting Partners, New York. Anomaly did not return a phone call requesting comment. Liz Lewis, owner of Liz Lewis Casting Partners, declined to comment.
The casting call memo was first leaked to the popular sports blog Awful Announcing.
Normally the producer of popular and clever commercials, ESPN had to backtrack after learning about what some consider to be racist, sexist and stereotypical language in the memo.
In a statement, ESPN said: "Our marketing department just learned of this casting call [Thursday] and the campaign is not something we will pursue. The language and approach reflected in that document were not approved by us and in no way represent ESPN or the respect we have for the college community."
ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys told Advertising Age, "It took us, literally, seconds after being alerted to it to say this was a problem."
Mr. Soltys said Anomaly was unaware of the casting-call memo as well.
The commercial was to be shot on Nov. 24-25 in New York. The premise of the spot, or spots, was to pitch ESPN's college basketball coverage. The commercial was to be set in a call center, dubbed the ESPN College Basketball Call Center, staffed by about 20 students from various college basketball powerhouses.
The students were to make calls lobbying viewers to watch their respective schools on ESPN.
In putting out a casting call for actors to play college students from the various schools, the memo had a description of what each representative should be like. It was not flattering to some. To wit, a look at some of the memo:
MALE. Our guy for Duke UNIVERSITY is a smart, with it, young WHITE male. He's handsome. He's from money. He is, in short, the kind of guy, everyone can't stand. He is the kind of guy everyone wants to be.
MALE. Louisville is very true to place. He's short. He's HISPANIC. And one day he hopes to carry on in proud Louisville tradition and race thoroughbreds.
FEMALE. Tennessee is orange crazy. The ice tray in her orange fridge, that freezes the water she dyes orange, is that orange. The party girl cowboy hat she wears is a white and orange zebra print. The tattoo on her lower back is Pantone 3 for that Tennessee orange. The only thing that's not orange is her dog. ... Did we mention she's crazy? A slutty girl who would hang out at the cowgirl hall of fame.
MALE. He's an ASIAN kid who is in to all things Notre Dame, ridiculously so. Oh, and he's always fighting. Every time we encounter him he always has some words or another, be it the faint traces of a black eye, or a scab or whatever. He epitomizes the fightin' Irish.
MALE. Jewish kid from Long Island that is loving the college experience. It has opened up a world he never knew existed. All you can eat buffets in the cafeteria -- who knew? To Syracuse, everything is a party.
MALE. What can we say about Memphis? He's a southern BLACK kid, really culinary and polite. He's artistic, and draws comic books really well.
MALE. African-American. Young Obama. Think Toofer -- the straight-laced, Harvard grad writer from 30 Rock (Keith Powell).