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Trigger warning: the contents of this article contain graphic details and audio of a racial slur. (The Black Wall Street Times was the first to report this story.)
Apparently, there’s no rest for the racists. A network announcer called members of Norman High’s girls’ basketball team “n*ggers” during a game against Midwest City Thursday night.
Going even beyond Don Imus’s infamous “nappy headed hoes comment,” the announcer, who is contracted with the National Federation of High School (NFHS) Network, grew furious when Black players and others on the diverse Norman High School girls’ basketball team chose to kneel during the National Anthem.
By Friday morning, an NHS coach had shared the clip of the racial slur on Twitter, garnering nearly 10,000 views within an hour. The news comes just days after coaches disciplined two high school players on the boys’ basketball team at Oklahoma City’s John Marshall Enterprise School for throwing punches at a racist, slur-using Newcastle High School team.
Norman Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nick Migliorino released a statement Friday morning condemning the racist comments.
“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,” the statement read.
Dr. Migliorino committed to fully supporting the Black students especially. He also called for NPS to rely only on its long-standing community partner, SportsTalk Media.
Norman Mayor responds to racism
Norman Mayor Breea Clark was even more direct about the racial slur. She released a statement on Facebook. It called for an end to the partnership between the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) and the National Federation of High School (NFHS) Network.
“I am 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,” she said on Facebook.
“Join me in calling for the 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 NFS and OSSAA. There is no place for this behavior in our nation, and certainly not in youth sports.”
However, many on social media refused to accept an apology.
Response from NFHS
Mayor Clark told theBWSTimes that as of Friday morning, NPS was meeting with high school coaches and the city was assessing its options. Those wanting to voice their concerns have begun to directly email NFHS: email@example.com.
Later in the day, OSSAA released a statement from NFHS on its website. It included the typical corporate response: a distancing from the individual, a resume of its racial justice record, and an apology that promises to further investigate the situation.
In the clip, a man introduces himself as Matt Rowan. He then begins to name the members of his crew working the high school basketball game.
“Scott Sapulpa doing color and I am Matt Rowan signing off.”
Initially, TheBWSTimes had not been able to confirm whether either of these men hurled the racial slur. We haven’t been able to reach them for comment. But throughout the day, local and national media wrongly named Scott Sapulpa, a former coach at Hulbert High School. One reporter from the Oklahoman even had to retract his statement that it was Sapulpa, but not before national media spread the error.
Matt Rowan, owner of OSPN-live, blames racist comment on having low-blood sugar.
Dylan Goforth of the Frontier was the first to correctly release a statement from Matt Rowan, owner of OSPN-live and the person who used the racial slur. In a press release, Rowan blamed low-blood sugar on his racist verbal attack.
“I will state that I suffer Type 1 Diabetes and during the game my sugar was spiking,” Rowan said in a statement. “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 do not believe that I would have made such horrible statements absent my sugar spiking.”
The man was bold enough to even tell an Oklahoma City television reporter that the n-word is part of his vocabulary. He claimed that he’s “working to remove it.” But it appears his contractors removed him first. Rowan’s company was immediately fired from announcing the remaining tournament games by the the National Federation High School Network and the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
Schools cut ties, Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus responds.
Reacting to the racist news, several schools ended their contracts with NFHS on Friday. Norman Public schools, Moore Public Schools, and El Reno Public Schools all announced they would no longer contract with NFHS.
By Friday evening, the Oklahoma Legislature’s Black Caucus had released a blistering statement.
“How disappointing that a team of student-athletes who’ve exhibited such courage and determination be confronted by racist language and hateful rhetoric,” said Rep. Merleyn Bell D-Norman, the city’s first Black woman representative.
A legislator from Tulsa used the opportunity to call out racism across the state.
“We need contracts with more capable, black business owners, broadcasters and announcers. The Black student-athletes who are watched running up and down these courts should also see themselves more in station owners, producers, administrators, coaches, referees, and teachers,” said Black Caucus Chair Rep. Regina Goodwin D-Tulsa.
“These young women exercised their right to peacefully protest police killings and injustice in America. Their taking a knee is far better than taking a knee to end a life as officers did to Derek Scott and George Floyd. The use of the n-word shows America’s ugly, racist past is too often present.”
Just another day in Oklahoma.
It wasn’t all bad news, though. the Norman High School girls’ basketball team won the Class 6A girls state tournament championship after beating Bixby at the Mabee Center in Tulsa on Saturday.