Sports broadcaster caught on hot mic directing racial slur at girls' basketball team
An Oklahoma sports commentator is under investigation after he was heard on a live microphone Thursday night directing a racial slur at a girls' high school basketball team.
Norman High girls' basketball coach Frankie Parks tweeted a clip Friday where the broadcaster from the National Federation of High School Networks, can be heard berating players and using a racist slur as they knelt for the playing of the national anthem before a state playoff game.
The broadcaster, identified by The Frontier as Matt Rowan, owns OSPN, the live-streaming platform that broadcast Thursday's game.
"I hope Norman gets their ass kicked," he said before launching into a tirade that involved several profanities and the racist comment.
The broadcaster's remarks drew condemnation from school officials, Norman Mayor Breea Clark, a Democrat, and former University of Oklahoma football stars Kenny Stills and Gerald McCoy. Norman High players also received broad support on social media, with some rallying around the Twitter hashtag #ThisIsWhyWeKneel.
Norman guard Myka Perry, a Florida recruit, called the comments "disrespectful and disgusting" in a social media post, adding, "This is why we kneel. I love my sisters, and this makes us that much stronger. You are part of the problem."
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA), the state athletic organization which contracted the announcers through NFHS for the state tournament, said it was "made aware that some very offensive, inappropriate comments were made during the NFHS livestream broadcast" and that it had pulled the broadcast team.
"On behalf of the NFHS Network and the 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 any more games for the remainder of our championships," executive director David Jackson said in a statement. "This kind of behavior will never be tolerated by anyone representing the NFHS or OSSAA. State tournament playoffs are a special time for our schools, their students, and their communities [sic], and anything that is counter-productive to education-based activities will be addressed immediately and appropriately. We will make further comments as we finish our investigation."
The NFHS Network said it is "aggressively investigating the incident and will ensure that any individuals responsible will have no relationship with the NFHS Network moving forward." In response to questions regarding the identity of the broadcaster who made the comments, it referred The Washington Post to its earlier statement.
In a statement, Rowan blamed his comments in part on having diabetes.
"I made inappropriate and racist comments believing that the microphone was off; however, let me state immediately that is no excuse, such comments should have never been uttered," Rowan said in the statement.
"I will state that I suffer Type 1 Diabetes and during the game my sugar was spiking. While not excusing my remarks, it is not unusual when my sugar spikes that I become disoriented and often say things that are not appropriate as well as hurtful.
"I offer my most sincere apologies for the inappropriate comments made and hope that I can obtain forgiveness. I specifically apologize to the Norman High School girls basketball team, their families, their coaches and their entire school system."
Norman High went on to defeat Midwest City in Thursday's quarterfinal. Its semifinal against Tulsa Union will be live-streamed through Norman Sports TV.
Rick Cobb, the superintendent of Mid-Del Public Schools, which includes Midwest City, said in a statement he is hopeful OSSAA will review "any future contracts [NFHS] have for broadcasting school activities" in Oklahoma.
Clark said she has been in contact with players' parents and is planning a town hall with "the youth of Norman, so we can learn how this incident has impacted them and hear directly from our kids how we can improve our community going forward."
Norman Public Schools superintendent Nick Migliorino reiterated support for players in a statement on Friday.
"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," he said.
"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."