NORMAN, Okla. – The announcer of an online sports network acknowledged Friday he used a cruel racial slur to disparage the Norman High School girls’ basketball team for kneeling during the national anthem of a livestreamed game.
Matt Rowan, founder of the OSPN Live, disclosed he was the voice heard in the background of a widely circulated video saying, “They’re kneeling? F****** N******. I hope Norman gets their ass kicked.”
Rowan then added: “F*** (Norman). I hope they lose. C’mon, Midwest City. They’re gonna kneel like that? Hell no.”
The video appeared Friday on Twitter.
Rowan said in a statement he thought the microphone was off when he made “inappropriate and racial comments” Thursday night prior to the 6A state tournament game between Norman High and Midwest City High School.
A businessman from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Rowan apologized to the Norman High players and others for his remarks, insisting he is not a racist. “I have never considered myself to be a racist and, in short, cannot explain why I made these comments.”
Rowan’s company was promptly fired from carrying the remaining tournament games by the the National Federation High School Network and the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
Both organization condemned Rowan’s comments.
"On behalf of the NFHS Network and the OSSAA, we sincerely apologize that this happened at one of our events," said David Jackson, OSSAA executive director. “This kind of behavior will never be tolerated by anyone representing the NFHS or OSSAA."
Norman Public Schools said it will no longer rely on the network to broadcast its games and that it supports its players, who have been kneeling before each game since mid-January.
"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," said Schools Superintendent Nick Migliorino. "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."
Several Norman High players responded to the video via their social media accounts, including senior post Chantae Embry, who is signed to play with Texas Tech.
"People want to know why we kneel," Embry tweeted, "here’s a prime example of why we do it. I’m proud of my team and I for using our voices and being heard."
The players were flooded with messages on social media, including one by Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who offered her support for NHS' student-athletes.
“The remarks made were sickening and vile," Hofmeister said in a statement. "It is critical (for) all of us to be clear that racism has no place in society and must never be tolerated, especially in our public schools. My heart aches for the young female athletes who were subjected to this hateful and disgusting tirade.”
Rowan took full responsibility for his comments while also mentioning he suffers from type 1 diabetes that elevated his sugar level during the game. “It is not unusual when my sugar spikes that I become disoriented,” he said.
The Norman, Oklahoma, Transcript provided details for this story.