The jury awards the sports broadcaster a staggering 25 million

The jury awards the sports broadcaster a staggering $25 million in defamation proceedings after the Oklahoma newspaper falsely branded him a racist

A jury has awarded an Oklahoma man $25 million in damages after a newspaper misidentified him as a high school basketball commentator who racially abused players.

Scott Sapulpa was one of two men commentating the March 2021 girls playoff game between Midwest City High School and Norman High School.

During the playing of the national anthem, the Norman team took a knee, causing second commentator Matt Rowan, a former youth pastor, to launch an extremely offensive racist tirade against the girls because he believed his microphone wasn't turned on. Rowan later blamed his diabetes for the tirade.

The Oklahoman – the state's largest newspaper – incorrectly reported that Sapulpa made the racist comments.

On Monday, Sapulpa was awarded the considerable sum for his mistake.

“We’re just so happy for Scott. Hopefully this justifies his name,” said Michael Barkett, Sapulpa’s attorney.

The Norman High School girls' basketball team is seen kneeling in March 2021, to the annoyance of commentators Scott Sapulpa and Matt Rowan. Rowan then launched into a racist tirade, which he later attributed to his diabetes

Scott Sapulpa Matt Rowan

Scott Sapulpa (left) was reported in The Oklahoman for making racist remarks, when in fact it was his colleague Matt Rowan (right) who uttered the slurs

Barkett had argued in court that the case should set a precedent.

“Their entire culture, as we saw in this case, is that profit is more important than people,” he said. “It's their power that keeps them from telling the truth. They think they can get away with it.”

Bob Nelon, a representative for Gannett, which owns The Oklahoman, said the company realized it had made a mistake and quickly corrected it, with Sapulpa's name not appearing in the print version and quickly corrected online.

Nelon said a big award would hurt the company's smaller newspapers.

“Newspapers are made up of people, and people make mistakes,” Nelon said. “Mistakes happen. Gannett is made up of people – over 11,000 people. “If you punish Gannett, you punish all small-town newspaper editors.”

The Oklahoman published its article about the incident around 11 a.m. the next day and updated it at 12:37 p.m. to incorrectly identify Sapulpa as the one who used a racial slur.

Two and a half hours later, at 3:05 p.m., Sapulpa's name was removed.

Rowan then admitted it was him and he was named at 5:35 p.m.

Rowan later admitted that he had made the racist comments

Rowan later admitted that he had made the racist comments

1707209905 267 The jury awards the sports broadcaster a staggering 25 million

Gannett said it would appeal the arbitration award.

“No evidence was presented to the jury that The Oklahoman acted with knowledge that what was reported in this case was false or with the intent to harm the plaintiff in this case,” said Lark-Marie Anton, spokeswoman the media group.

Rowan's tirade went viral and sparked nationwide outrage.

“You kneel? Fuck her. “I hope Norman gets his ass kicked,” Rowan said as the girls dropped to the floor to kneel for the anthem.

Sapulpa was taken aback by the kneeling and asked, “Are you serious?”

Rowan continued: “F*** them.” I hope they lose. Come on, Midwest City.

“You’re going to kneel like that? To hell with them.

“You even salute the flag? Some of them are not. F NS.'

Rowan's racist slurs went viral and sparked widespread outrage

Rowan's racist slurs went viral and sparked widespread outrage

Although Sapulpa was only charged with the racial slurs for less than three hours, his lawyers argued that the damage was permanent.

He was placed on leave, his teaching contract was not renewed, his private business lost almost all of its clients, he received dozens of harassing messages including death threats, and he lost many personal and professional relationships, his lawyers argued, according to NonDoc. com news website.

Rowan later apologized and blamed his diabetes.

“During the Norman High School girls basketball game against Midwest City, I made inappropriate and racist comments because I believed the microphone was turned off; “However, let me immediately state that this is not an excuse that such comments should never have been made,” he said in a statement.

“Not only have I embarrassed and disappointed myself, but I have also embarrassed and disappointed my family and friends.”

Rowan claimed his diabetes sometimes causes him to make “hurtful” comments.

“I state that I have type 1 diabetes and during the game my sugar levels shot up.” “While I do not apologize for my comments, it is not uncommon for me to do so when my sugar levels skyrocket “who loses his bearings and often says things that are both inappropriate and hurtful,” he said.

“I don’t think I would have made such terrible statements if my sugar levels hadn’t skyrocketed.”

Rowan insisted he was not racist and apologized for his comments.

JDRF, a nonprofit type 1 diabetes research advocacy group, responded in a tweet: “There are many symptoms of high blood sugar, racism is not one of them.”