Fri 12 Mar 2021 17.51 EST
An announcer for a live stream of an Oklahoma girls’ high school basketball game cursed and called one team by a racial epithet as the players knelt during the national anthem, then suggested his diabetes was to blame for the episode in a statement expressing his regret.
The incident occurred Thursday before the Norman High School-Midwest City quarter-final game in Sapulpa as the Star-Spangled Banner began to play. The broadcasters told their listeners on the NFHS Network stream they would return after a break and then one, apparently not realizing the audio was still live, used an expletive and the epithet as the Norman players knelt.
“They’re kneeling? Fuck them,” one of the men said. “I hope Norman gets their ass kicked … Fucking niggers.
“They’re going to kneel like that? Hell no.”
The incident was posted on Twitter and widely disseminated on Friday.
Matt Rowan, owner of OSPN, the third-party company that produced the telecast for NFHS, revealed on Friday afternoon that he was the speaker on broadcast.
Rowan, who described himself as a family man and former youth pastor, said there was “no excuse” for his comments before disclosing that he suffers from type 1 diabetes and attributing his use of racist language to hyperglycemia.
“I do not believe I would have made such horrible statements absent my sugar spiking,” the statement read.
Earlier Friday, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association (OSSAA) and NFHS Network each issued statements apologizing for the comments.
“While we are currently investigating the incident, this crew will not be doing any more games for the remainder of our championships,” OSSAA director David Jackson said. “This kind of behavior will never be tolerated by anyone representing the NFHS or OSSAA.”
The NFHS Network said in a statement that it was “sickened” and “outraged” by the comments.
“We are aggressively investigating the incident and will ensure that any individuals responsible will have no relationship with the NFHS Network moving forward,” according to the statement.
Kneeling during the anthem during US sporting events has become a familiar way for athletes to express themselves, often protesting racial or social injustice. Norman High School superintendent Nick Migliorino said the school district supports the students’ right to freely express themselves:
“Last night during the Norman High School girls’ basketball game versus Midwest City in the Oklahoma 6A State Basketball Tournament, National Federation of High School (NFHS) Network announcers on a live stream broadcast made racist and hateful comments targeted at our Norman High student athletes. The announcers were contracted by OSSAA for the state tournament.
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“We condemn and will not tolerate the disgusting words and attitudes of these announcers. This type of hate speech has no place in our society and we are outraged that it would be directed at any human being, and particularly at our students.
“We fully support our students’ right to freedom of expression and our immediate focus is to support these girls and their coaches and families, particularly our Black students and coaching staff. It is tragic that the hard work and skill of this team is being overshadowed by the vile, malignant words of these individuals. We will do everything in our power to support and uplift our team and everyone affected by this incident.
“Moving forward NPS will rely only on our long-standing, community partner SportsTalk Media to live stream the remainder of the tournament, as we have full confidence in their proven ability to respectfully support our student athletes.”
State public schools superintendent Joy Hofmeister also released a statement, saying the comments cannot be tolerated.
“The remarks made were sickening and vile,” Hofmeister said. “My heart aches for the young female athletes who were subjected to this hateful and disgusting tirade.”
Emily Virgin, the minority leader of Oklahoma’s state house of representatives, who led a call for action in the wake of the incident, said: “I am absolutely disgusted by the actions of the broadcasters who used racist slurs against our Norman High basketball team. They should immediately resign or be fired. Our student athletes should be commended for their courage, not disparaged. Heartbreaking.”
Norman mayor Breea Clark also issued a statement Friday morning, saying that she was “livid and absolutely disgusted about the racist and hateful comments directed towards the young women on the Norman High School basketball team by a game announcer in the live broadcast of last night’s game.”
She added: “These young athletes were simply expressing themselves as hundreds of professional athletes around the nation have done, and no one, let alone a child, deserves to experience this kind of racist and toxic behavior. The announcer could’ve stopped with declaring he hoped our team would lose, but instead he went further and decided to use profanity and racist slurs about our children.
“Join me in calling for the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) to end their contract with the National Federation of High School (NFHS) Network. Their employees do not need to be anywhere near children. Further, these young women and their team deserve a public apology from NFHS and OSSAA. There is NO PLACE for this behavior in our nation, and certainly not in youth sports.”
Norman was scheduled to play Tulsa Union at 4pm on Friday in the semi-finals at Sapulpa.
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