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Commentator uses racist slur during Norman High basketball game

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Norman High School

Norman High School on Nov. 1.

Editor’s note: This article contains audio including racist slurs.

UPDATE: The commentator, who identified himself as Matt Rowan, issued a statement Friday afternoon. In the statement, Rowan acknowledged his comments as "inappropriate and racist."

In the statement, Rowan wrote he suffers Type 1 Diabetes and claimed his sugar was spiking during the game. He claimed the circumstance could lead to him becoming "disoriented" and "(saying) things that are not appropriate, as well as hurtful."

A commentator announcing a Norman High basketball game Thursday night used a racist slur on a live microphone after the Norman High girls’ basketball team knelt for the national anthem.

In a tweet from Norman High girls’ basketball coach Frankie Parks, broadcasters from the National Federation of High School Network announcing the livestream can be heard disparaging the Norman High team for kneeling before the game against Midwest City. 

As the anthem begins and the Norman High players continue to kneel, one commentator can be heard saying "F*** them" and "I hope Norman gets their ass kicked." Roughly halfway through the video, the same commentator directs a racist slur at the team.

On Friday morning, Norman Public Schools Superintendent Nick Migliorino issued a statement to district parents via email.

“Last night during the Norman High School girls’ basketball game versus Midwest City in the Oklahoma 6A State Basketball Tournament, National Federation of High School Network announcers on a live stream broadcast made racist and hateful comments targeted at our Norman High student athletes,” Migliorino wrote. “The announcers were contracted by (the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association) for the state tournament.”

Migliorino wrote the district condemns and “will not tolerate the disgusting words and attitudes” the commentators displayed.

“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,” Migliorino wrote. “It is tragic that the hard work and skill of this team is being overshadowed by the vile, malignant words of these individuals.”

Reactions condemning the incident quickly appeared from Norman leaders, including Mayor Breea Clark and Oklahoma House Minority Leader Emily Virgin (D-Norman).

In the email, Migliorino wrote Norman High will broadcast the remainder of the tournament through SportsTalk Media. 

The NFHS Network said in a Friday afternoon statement it is "sickened" by comments made at the start of the broadcast, and the thoughts expressed "in no way" represent the organization. 

"The NFHS Network firmly condemns racism, hate and discrimination, and there is no room for this in high school sports or anywhere," the group said in the statement.

According to the statement, NFHS sincerely apologizes to the students, their families and the community for having "such ignorant comments" expressed during the broadcast. The organization is "aggressively investigating" the incident and will ensure individuals responsible have "no relationship with the NFHS Network moving forward." 

Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association Executive Director David Jackson said in a Friday afternoon statement the organization was made aware that "some very offensive, inappropriate comments" were made during the NFHS livestream broadcast of the game. 

Jackson wrote on behalf of the NFHS Network and the OSSAA, they "sincerely apologize" for what took place at one of their events, and that crew won't be working any more games for the remainder of the championship, as an investigation takes place. 

"This kind of behavior will never be tolerated by anyone representing the NFHS or OSSAA," Jackson wrote in the statement. "State tournament playoffs are a special time for our schools, their students, and their communities, and anything that is counter-productive to education-based activities will be addressed immediately and appropriately." 

Jackson wrote in the statement further comments will be made as the investigation is completed. 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister also responded to the incident in a Friday afternoon statement. 

"The remarks made were sickening and vile," Hofmeister said in the statement. "It is critical on 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 the hateful and disgusting tirade." 

Editor's note: This article was updated at 12:43 p.m. Friday, March 12, to reflect comments from the NFHS Network, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. 

Editor's note: This article was updated at 4:51 p.m. March 12 to include a statement from the commentator.

Blake Douglas joined the OU Daily news desk in October 2018, and is currently the news managing editor. Previously, Blake has served as an intern reporter, senior news reporter and summer news editor.

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