Correction / Clarification: In an earlier version of this story, the announcer who made racist comments during a girls’ high school basketball game between Norman, Oklahoma and Midwest City was incorrectly identified. The announcer was Matt Rowan.
An online broadcast announcer made highly inflammatory, racist comments on the Norman, Oklahoma girls’ basketball team ahead of the Midwest City quarter-finals on Thursday in Sapulpa.
Matt Rowan, the owner and operator of streaming service OSPN, told The Oklahoman that he was the person who made the racially insensitive remarks.
A live microphone got him racist comments after members of the Norman girls’ basketball team knelt for the national anthem.
Rowan can be heard saying, while broadcasting on the NFHS network, “You kneel? (Expletive) (Racial fraud). I hope Norman gets kicked in the ass. (Expletive) You. I hope you lose …
“You’re going to kneel like this? Hell no.”
Rowan apologized Friday, blaming his blood sugar level for using racist language.
“I will say I have type 1 diabetes and my sugar spiked significantly during the game,” Rowan said in a written statement. “While I don’t apologize for my remarks, it’s not uncommon for my sugar spikes to disorient me and often say things that are inappropriate and hurtful. I don’t think I would have made such terrible statements without my sugar spikes.”
The Norman girls’ basketball team played against Tulsa Union in the semi-finals in Sapulpa on Friday. The crowd applauded as both teams kneeled during the national anthem.
The video of Rowan’s comments went viral on Friday morning. Norman Public Schools superintendent Nick Migliorino issued a statement condemning Rowan’s “disgusting words” as hate speech.
“We fully support the right of our students to freedom of expression and our immediate focus is on helping these girls and their coaches and families, especially our black students and coaching staff,” said Migliorino. “It is tragic that the hard work and skill of this team is overshadowed by the heinous, malicious words of these people. We will do everything in our power to uplift and uplift our team and all those affected by this incident.”
The Norman school district will rely solely on its longtime community partner SportsTalk Media to live stream the rest of the tournament, Migliorino said.
The Tahlequah Public Schools posted a Friday afternoon on Facebook that they have used the same broadcasting crew in the past but will not evolve.
Rowan was hired by the governing body for all high school athletics in the state, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, to broadcast the game on the NFHS network. The OSSAA and NFHS issued apologetic statements on Friday morning.
“On behalf of the NFHS network and the OSSAA, we sincerely apologize for this happened at one of our events. While we are investigating this incident, this crew will not play any more games for the remainder of our championships. No one will tolerate this behavior who represents NFHS or OSSAA State tournament playoffs are a special time for our schools, their students, and their communities, and anything counterproductive to education-based activities is addressed promptly and appropriately.
“We will provide further comments when we have completed our investigation.”
The NFHS said it got “sick” from Rowan’s comments.
“The thoughts not expressed in any way represent the NFHS network and we are outraged that they have found their way into our production,” the network said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize to the students, their families and the entire community for making such ignorant comments during the broadcast. We are aggressively investigating the incident and will ensure that those responsible have no future relationship with the NFHS network. “
Norman Mayor Breea Clark said A statement from the network or the OSSAA is not enough. To prevent a similar incident from happening again, she urged the OSSAA to take measurable action, such as implicit bias training or screening announcers hired for Oklahoma High School games.
Clark said she would hold a town hall with Norman youths to hear their contributions. The mayor has contacted the parents of the players who have faced racist abuse.
“I asked, ‘How is your daughter?'” Said Clark. “She said her answer was, ‘This is why we kneel down’ because there is a problem. These brave young women are not afraid to speak up and call out when they see it. They are real heroes in this situation.”
Head of State Joy Hofmeister called the comments “disgusting and hideous”.
“It is crucial for all of us to make it clear that racism has no place in society and must never be tolerated, especially in our public schools,” said Hofmeister. “My heart aches for the young athletes who have been exposed to this hateful and disgusting tirade.”
Garland Pruitt, NAACP President of Oklahoma City, praised the students kneeling during the national anthem – a gesture that has become a symbol of protest against police brutality and racial injustice.
Pruitt said the announcer’s comments reflect the “same stance” by Oklahoma lawmakers who tabled a bill this week that would give immunity to drivers who hit protesters.
He said it was another example of failure to protect people of color in Oklahoma, a state that once led the world on incarceration rates and consistently ranks low in funding for education.
“When I first heard it, I said to myself, ‘Just another day in the neighborhood,'” said Pruitt. “In other words, these are the attitudes that too many of those who are able to correct, correct.” Fixing, changing, tackling problems has a tendency to take. ”
This is not the first time in the postseason of high school basketball that students have been racially abused.
On February 25, a fight broke out at the Newcastle High School gym after students attacked African-American players from John Marshall High School with racial slurs. Newcastle superintendent Melonie Hau apologized, saying a student who used racist language had been disciplined.
However, the school district denied allegations that racial slurs broke out from the Newcastle student department throughout the basketball game while adult supervision was within earshot. Oklahoma City public schools said the investigation into the incident found the students used racial taunting throughout the evening.
“I’m saying this clearly – our children, our staff, our parents and our supporters shouldn’t have to deal with racist attacks and insults at any school event,” said Paula Lewis, chair of the Oklahoma City School Board, in a written statement. “Our children shouldn’t feel like they have to fight to defend themselves.”
Reporter Cameron Jourdan covers high school sports on the subway and in the state of Oklahoma City. Do you have a story idea for Cameron? He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Cam_Jourdan.