A sports announcer has sought to blame his diabetes after he was caught on video using the N-word to insult a high school girls basketball team as they knelt during the US national anthem.
Former youth pastor Matt Rowan identified himself as the person who could be heard making the racist outburst as Norman High School geared up to face Midwest City in the quarter finals of a state tournament in Oklahoma on Thursday.
As Norman’s team took to one knee during the “Star Spangled Banner” – a protest gesture popularised by NFL star Colin Kaepernick and the Black Lives Matter movement – those watching the National Federation of High School (NFHS) Network’s broadcast of the event could hear Rowan say of the teenagers: “They’re kneeling? I hope Norman gets their ass kicked.”
“F***them, I hope they lose,” he added, uttering the racist slur moments later.
In a statement first reported on Friday by local news organisation, The Frontier, Norman identified the comments as his own.
Hey @NFHSNetwork looks like you forgot to cut the Mic!!! "F****** N******" is the one that really got me!! Tell us… https://t.co/T3zrBmLsI9
“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,” the statement said.
“I have not only embarrassed and disappointed myself I have embarrassed and disappointed my family and my friends.”
But Rowan – who described himself as a father-of-two and Baptist Churchgoer – continued:
“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.”
Rowan’s comments had been met with fury in the local community.
Dr Nick Migliorino, superintendent of Norman Public Schools, said he was “outraged” by Rowan’s hateful comments, while Breea Clark, the mayor of Norman – a 120,000-strong city near the state capital – described herself as “livid and absolutely disgusted”.
“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 behaviour,” Mayor Clark said in a series of tweets.
“The announcer could’ve stopped with declaring he hoped our team would lose, but instead he went further and decided to use profanity and racist slurs about our children.”
Rowan’s statement appears to have done little to dim that anger, with The New York Times reporting that the website for OSPN Live – the Tahlequa-based sports streaming platform he was described as running by The Frontier – appeared to have been taken down as of Saturday morning.
There are a lot of symptoms of high blood sugar, racism is not one of them. https://t.co/q9l3Kd49Ne