A girls’ high school basketball game in Oklahoma received national scrutiny — but through no fault of the players — in March 2021 after one of the participating coaches posted audio of an announcer smearing his players with a racist slur.
Norman High School coach Frankie Parks posted the audio on Twitter the day after his team’s game against Midwest City, telling the NFHS Network (which aired the game), “looks like you forgot to cut the Mic!!! “F****** N******” is the one that really got me!! Tell us how you really feel!! THIS IS WHY THEY KNEEL!!!”
The announcer, whose name is not mentioned in the clip, is captured not only using the anti-Black slur against the Norman players but cursing at them and saying, “I hope Norman gets their ass kicked.” (Norman went on to defeat Midwest City 53-40 and advance in the state 6A tournament.)
We contacted the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) seeking confirmation of a report in the newspaper The Oklahoman identifying the offending announcer as a former football coach for another high school who “deleted his Twitter account and a Facebook post showing he was calling games” at the site of the Norman-Midwest City contest. The group did not comment on that matter but did say that it did not hire the announcers involved in the incident.
The announcer later identified himself as Matt Rowan — a different person than the one identified by the newspaper — in a statement saying that he “regrettably made some statements that cannot be taken back.” The statement read:
During the Norman High School girls basketball game against Midwest City, I made inappropriate and racist comments believing that the microphone was off; however, let me state immediately that is no excuse such comments should have never been uttered.
I am a family man. I am married, have two children and at one time was a youth pastor. I continue to be a member of a Baptist church. I have not only embarrassed and disappointed myself I have embarrassed and disappointed my family and my friends.
I will state that I suffer Type 1 Diabetes and during the game my sugar was spiking. 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.
Both OSSAA and the network quickly issued statements condemning the announcer’s behavior.
“While we are currently investigating the incident, this crew will not be doing any more games for the remainder of our championships,” OSSAA executive director David Jackson said. “This kind of behavior will never be tolerated by anyone representing the NFHS or OSSAA.”
The network later released an updated statement saying it had “cut ties with the third-party production crew that was involved.”
Norman Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nick Migliorino said in his own statement that the network would no longer stream the remainder of Norman High’s tournament games, and that his district would work with a separate company, SportsTalk Media.
The mayor of Norman, Breea Clark, also denounced the announcer’s behavior on Twitter, calling on OSSAA to end its contract with the network and add8hg that she is working with Cinthya Allen, who was named the city’s first chief diversity and equity officer in January 2021, to arrange a town hall with local youths regarding the incident.
“These young athletes were simply expressing themselves as hundreds of professional athletes around the nation have done, and no one, let alone a child, deserves to experience this kind of racist and toxic behavior,” Clark wrote.
The act of “taking a knee” during the playing of the U.S. national anthem has gained visibility and solidarity since Colin Kaepernick began doing it in 2016 when he played for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League to draw attention to extrajudicial killings by police.
Update March 12 2021 4:46 p.m. PST: Updated with comments from Matt Rowan, the anouncer who identified himself as being responsible for the racist remarks.