Owner of Streaming Service Upset That Girls Team ‘Took a Knee’ as National Anthem Played at a Basketball Playoff
SAPULPA—The owner of an online streaming service usedthe N-word to refer to members of a Norman girls basketball team who “took a knee,” or kneeled, during the playing of the National Anthem Thursday night.
“They’re kneeling??” the broadcaster was heard to say. “[Expletive] N______.
“I hope Norman gets their ass kicked. [Expletive] them! I hope they lose!
“They’re going to kneel like that? Hell no!”
Matt Rowan, owner of OSPN, the online streaming service, was the broadcaster who made the remarks.
He was broadcasting on the NEHS Network.
The streaming owner admitted to reporters he had made the remarks.
The girls basketball players were in a playoff game with Midwest City.
A live microphone had caught Matt Rowan making the racist remarks.
He 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 Norman girls basketball team played Tulsa Union on Friday in the semifinals at Sapulpa.
Spectators applauded as both teams kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem.
Video of Rowan’s comments went viral Friday morning. Supt. Nick Migliorino of the Norman Public School Disict released a statement condemning Rowan’s “disgusting words” as hate speech.
“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,” supt. Migliorino said. “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.”
The Norman school district will rely solely on its long-standing community partner SportsTalk Media to live stream the remainder of the tournament, Supt. Migliorino said.
The Tahlequah Public School District said Friday afternoon in a Facebook post that it has used the same broadcast crew in the past, but will not moving forward.
Rowan was hired by the governing body over all high school athletics in the state, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, to broadcast the game on the NFHS Network.
The OSSAA and NFHS both released apologetic statements Friday morning.
“On behalf of the NFHS Network and the OSSAA, we sincerely apologize that this happened at one of our events.
“While we are currently investigating the incident, this crew will not be doing any more games for the remainder of our championships.
“This kind of behavior will not be tolerated by anyone representing the NFHS or OSSAA. 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.”
“We will make further comments as we finish our investigation.”
The NFHS said it was “sickened” by Rowan’s comments.
“The thoughts expressed in no way represent the NFHS Network and we are outraged that they found their way into our production,” the network said in a statement.
“We sincerely apologize to the students, their families and the entire community for having such ignorant comments expressed during the broadcast.
“We are aggressively investigating the incident and will ensure that any individuals responsible will have no relationship with the NFHS Network moving forward.”
The mayor of Norman was equally incensed.
Mayor Breea Clark said the network must prevent a similar incident from happening again.
She urged the OSSAA to sponsor bias training or screening of announcers hired for high school games.
“This is why we kneel,” the mayor said. “We kneel because there’s a problem.
These brave young women aren’t afraid to address it and call it out when they see it. They’re real heroes in this situation.”