A high school sports announcer and former youth pastor who was heard using a racial slur on girls of a basketball team for taking the knee during the national anthem has denied he’s racist, blaming his utterances on his diabetes.
According to CBS, the incident occurred during an Oklahoma 6A State basketball match between Norman High School and Midwest City on Thursday. In the recording, Matt Rowan is heard launching into a racist tirade when the girls of the Norman High School basketball team take the knee when the national anthem is being played. Rowan was unaware his mic was on.
“They’re kneeling? F**k**g ni**ers,” Rowan is heard saying. “I hope Norman gets their ass kicked. F**k them. I hope they lose. Come on Midwest City. They’re gonna kneel like that? Hell no.” Norman went ahead to win the game.
Rowan released a statement on Friday apologizing for his comments and blamed his meltdown on a spike in his blood sugar level.
“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 been uttered,” he said.
“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.”
A parent of one of the girls on the Norman basketball team told KWTV the incident took a toll on his daughter and Rowan’s comments were a reflection of the abuse people of color have to endure.
“It’s just a sign of the times, it’s more of the abuse and things we have to deal with as people of color. Instead of looking at what the real issues are a lot of this negativity is just based off of hate,” he said. “She’s not taking it very well. Me and my wife just try to tell her keep her head up, just pray and try to concentrate.”
Following the incident, Norman Public Schools released a statement announcing they had severed ties with Rowan and his company.
“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,” NPS Superintendent Dr. Nick 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 National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) also released a statement condemning Rowan’s comments and announced they had “immediately cut ties with the third-party production crew that was involved.”
“The thoughts expressed in no way represent our network, and we are outraged that they found their way into the production,” the statement said.
“The NFHS Network firmly condemns racism, hate and discrimination. 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: “As an organization dedicated to empowering students and young people through high school sports and athletic programs and making their achievements accessible to all in their communities and beyond, this incident is a direct violation of our mission as a company.”
Rowan’s production company, OSPN Live, has since been removed from the network’s website, CBS reported. Another company that reportedly sponsored Rowan’s company also announced they had “officially severed ties” with him in a tweet on Friday.