Correction / Clarification: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the broadcaster who made racist comments during the high school girls’ basketball match between Norman (Oklahoma) and the Midwest. The announcer was Matt Rowan.
An internet broadcaster made highly inflammatory and racist comments towards girls’ basketball team Norman (Oklahoma) ahead of the quarter-final match with Midwest City on Thursday in Sapulpa.
Matt Rowan, owner and operator of the live streaming service OSPN, told The Oklahoman that he was the one who made the racially insensitive remarks.
Live microphone I caught him making racist comments After members of the Norman girls’ basketball team kneel to the national anthem.
Rowan, while broadcasting on NFHS, can be heard saying, “They are kneeling? (Obscene) (racist slander). I hope Norman gets kicked out of their ass. (Expletive). Hope they lose …
“Will they kneel like this? Hell no.”
On Friday, Rowan apologized and blamed his use of racist language on blood sugar levels.
“I will say that I suffer from type 1 diabetes and during the match the sugar was rising,” Rowan said in a written statement. “While I do not excuse my remarks, it is not unusual for me to feel disoriented when my sugar is high, and I often say inappropriate as well as harmful things. I don’t think I would have made such outrageous statements in the absence of the rising sugar.”
The Normandy girls’ basketball team played the Tulsa Federation on Friday in the semifinals in Sapulpa. Spectators clapped as the two teams kneeled as the national anthem was played.
Rowan’s video of comments went viral on Friday morning. Norman Public Schools Director Nick Migliorino issued a statement condemning Rowan’s “disgusting words” as hate speech.
“We fully support our students’ right to freedom of expression, and our immediate focus is on supporting these girls, their coaches and their families, especially our black students and coaching staff,” Migliorino said. “It is tragic that the hard work and skill of this team has been overshadowed by the sordid and malicious words of these individuals. We will do our best to support and upgrade our team and everyone affected by this accident.”
Migliorino said the Norman School District will only rely on its longtime community partner SportsTalk Media to broadcast the remainder of the tournament.
Tahlequah Public Schools said Friday afternoon in a Facebook post that they have used the same broadcast crew in the past but are not going forward.
Rowan was appointed by the state’s governing body for all high school athletics, the Oklahoma High School Activities Association, to broadcast the game on the NFHS. The OSSAA and NFHS both released statements of apology Friday morning.
“On behalf of the NFHS Network and OSSAA, we sincerely apologize that this happened at one of our events. While we are currently investigating the incident, this crew will not be doing more matches for the rest of our tournaments. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated by anyone representing the NFHS or OSSAA. Qualifying for state championships is a special time for our schools, their students, and their communities, and anything that is counterproductive to educational activities will be dealt with promptly and appropriately.
We will make more comments while we finish our investigation. “
The NFHS said Rowan’s comments were “fed up”.
“The ideas expressed do not in any way represent the NFHS, and we are angry that they found their way into our productions,” the network said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize to the students, their families and the community at large for making such ignorant comments during the broadcast. We are aggressively investigating the incident and will ensure that any responsible individual will not have a relationship with the NFHS in the future.”
Norman Mayor Priya Clark said Not enough statement from the network or the OSSAA. To prevent a similar incident from happening again, she urged measurable action from the OSSAA, such as training in implicit bias or screening broadcasters assigned to Oklahoma High School Games.
Clark said she would host a town hall with young Normans to hear their input. The mayor has been in contact with the parents of the targeted players with racist slurs.
Clark said, “I asked, ‘How’s your daughter? “She said her response was, ‘This is why we kneel,’ because there is a problem. These brave young women are not afraid to heal her and summon her when they see her. They are real heroines in this position.
Government supervisor Joy Hofmeister described the comments as “disgusting and despicable”.
“It is important for all of us to be clear that racism has no place in society and should never be tolerated, especially in our public schools,” Hofmeister said. “My heart hurts for the young female athletes who underwent this obnoxious and disgusting sermon.”
Oklahoma City NAACP President Garland Pruitt paid tribute to students who kneel during the national anthem – a gesture that has become symbolic of protesting police brutality and racial injustice.
Pruitt said the announcer’s comments reflected “the same position” of Oklahoma lawmakers who introduced a bill this week that would grant immunity to drivers who beat protesters.
He said it is another example of a failure to protect people of color in Oklahoma, the state that once led the world in incarceration rates and ranks lowest in education funding.
“When I first heard that, I thought to myself, ‘Just another day in the neighborhood,’” Pruitt said. “In other words, these are the kinds of situations that a lot of people can correct, reform, change and address the issues that they tend to take on.”
This isn’t the first time in post-season high school basketball that students have been racially assaulted.
A fight broke out on February 25 in the Newcastle High School gymnasium after students targeted African American players from John Marshall High School with racist fabrications. Newcastle principal Meloni Howe apologized and said the student who used racist language was disciplined.
However, the school district contested allegations that racial slurs erupted from the Newcastle Student Department throughout a game of basketball while supervising adults. Oklahoma City Public Schools said its investigation into the accident concluded that students used racial satire throughout the evening.
Oklahoma City School Board Chair Paula Lewis said in a written statement: “I say this clearly – our children, our staff, our parents and our supporters should never face racist attacks and insults at any school event.” “Our children should not feel that they have to fight to defend themselves.”
Reporter Cameron Jordan covers high school sports across the Oklahoma City and state metro. Do you have a story idea for Cameron? You can contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter at CamJourdan.