An announcer of a live broadcast of an Oklahoma girls’ high school basketball game cursed and called out a team with a racial epithet as the players knelt during the national anthem.
The incident occurred on Thursday before the Norman High School-Midwest City quarterfinal game in Sapulpa when “The Star-Spangled Banner” began to play. Announcers told their listeners on the NFHS Network broadcast that they would return after a break and then one, apparently unaware that the audio was still live, used an expletive and epithet as the Norman players knelt.
Are they on their knees? (Expletives), ”said one of the men. “I hope Norman gets his butt kicked … (expletive) (epithet).”
Matt Rowan, the owner and operator of the OSPN streaming service, told The Oklahoman that he was the person who made the racially insensitive comments. Rowan apologized on Friday and blamed his use of racist language on his blood sugar levels.
“I will say that I suffer from type 1 diabetes and during the game my blood sugar went up,” Rowan said in a statement. “Without apologizing for my comments, it is not unusual for my blood sugar to rise that it disorients me and I often say things that are inappropriate as well as hurtful. I don’t think I would have made such horrible statements without my sugar surge. “
The Oklahoma High School Activities Association and the NFHS Network released statements apologizing for the comments.
“While we are investigating the incident, this team will not play any more games for the remainder of our championships,” said OSSAA Director David Jackson. “This type of behavior will never be tolerated by anyone representing the NFHS or OSSAA.”
NFHS Networks said in a statement that it was “disgusted” and “outraged” by the comments.
“We are aggressively investigating the incident and will ensure that those responsible have no connection with the NFHS network in the future,” according to the statement.
The OSSAA network and NFHS did not return phone calls to The Associated Press on Friday.
Kneeling during the anthem during American 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 right of students to express themselves freely.
“We condemn and will not tolerate the disgusting words and attitudes of these broadcasters,” Migliorno said. “We will do everything in our power to support and uplift our team and all those affected by this incident.”
Migliorino said the announcers were hired by OSSAA and the district would use another live streaming service for the remainder of the state tournament.
State Public Schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister also released a statement, saying the comments cannot be tolerated.
“The comments made were disgusting and vile,” Hofmeister said. “My heart aches for the young athletes who were subjected to this hateful and disgusting tirade.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.