April 2, 2021

An Oklahoma man is suing Gannett and two of its journalists after he was wrongfully identified as the radio announcer who called female high school basketball players the N-word on a hot mic.

Scott Sapulpa filed suit in Oklahoma district court on Thursday against Gannett, The Oklahoman and USA Today; reporter Cameron Jourdan; reporter Nuria Martinez-Keel; high school announcer Matt Rowan; NFHS Network LLC; and CBS Sports Inc. The suit “seeks compensation for damages for defamation … negligence, gross negligence, malicious wrong,” and other claims.

The situation began March 11 during the broadcast of a girls’ high school basketball tournament, which Rowan’s company was contracted to stream. During the national anthem of one of the games, members of one of the girls’ teams took a knee. One of the broadcasters — apparently unaware that he was still live — is heard to say, “They’re kneeling?… I hope they lose … hell, no,” and the N-word, among other profanities.

The clip was posted to social media the next day.

In reporting on the breaking story, The Oklahoman initially named Sapulpa as the person who went on the racist tirade against the kneeling athletes. That ID was picked up by other outlets, including CBS. The Oklahoman later removed his name from the story. Their correction reads, “The Oklahoman in an earlier version of this story identified an individual as the person who made the racist comments, based on official sources who were familiar with the incident. That information was incorrect.”

Rowan identified himself on March 12 as the person who used the offensive racial slur. He blamed it on a blood sugar spike.

You can see the lawsuit in its entirety here.

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