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 kneeled during the national anthem.
The incident occurred Thursday before the Norman High School-Midwest City quarterfinal game in Sapulpa as “The Star-Spangled Banner” began to play. The broadcasters told their listeners on the NFHS Network stream that they would return after a break. Then one, apparently not realizing the audio was still live, used an expletive and the epithet as the Norman players kneeled.
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“They’re kneeling? (Expletive) them,” one of the men said. “I hope Norman gets their ass kicked ... (Expletive) (epithet).”
Matt Rowan, the owner and operator of the streaming service OSPN, told The Oklahoman he was the person who made the racially insensitive remarks. Rowan apologized Friday and blamed his use of racist language on his blood-sugar levels.
“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 Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association 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 Networks said in a statement that it was "sickened" and "outraged" by the comments, apologized and “immediately cut ties with the third-party production crew that was involved.”
“We also deeply apologize to the students, their families, and the entire community for having such ignorant and hurtful comments expressed during the broadcast,” the statement added.
Kneeling during the anthem during U.S. 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.
“We condemn and will not tolerate the disgusting words and attitudes of these announcers,” Migliorno said. “We will do everything in our power to support and uplift our team and everyone affected by this incident.”
Migliorino said the OSSAA hired the announcers and that the district would use another live stream 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 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.”