The Norman High School girls basketball team gave everyone a lesson in peaceful protests, grace and class when faced with despicable racism.
The teenagers knelt during the National Anthem to bring attention to racism and social injustice. That prompted announcer Matt Rowan, who owns a Tahlequah-based streaming service for high school games, to prove their point, launching into a tirade calling the girls the n-word.
It was heard over an open microphone. Had that not happened, his racist beliefs would remain unknown.
This comes in a string of incidents including an apology from state Rep. Brad Boles, R-Marlow, after using the term “colored babies” during an abortion debate and a fight at a high school boys basketball game after students yelled racist slurs.
Newcastle High School students who jeered at the predominantly Black John Marshall High School players have been disciplined and banned from future games. But Oklahoma City administrators asked for an official action against Newcastle.
Racism is alive and takes different forms, all must be dealt with directly, swiftly and with consequences.
In high school sports, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association must take the lead in protecting players, coaches and fans from such harm. Executive Director David Jackson said the organization wants more say in how its contracted vendor chooses broadcasters.
The OSSAA has committed to ensuring that Rowan never gets another chance to earn money off one its games. That’s a start.
But this problem is deeper than a game or a person. It requires Oklahomans accept not everyone is treated equally and these inequities grow divides and hurt the state.
Steps like implementing implicit bias training and striving for diversity benefit all groups. For youth, better vetting of adult leaders is a must.
Efforts related to the Tulsa Race Massacre and programs of the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Center center on building relationships, bridging gaps and confronting history. These are hard conversations that ought to lead to concrete actions.
We also have a personal responsibility to speak out when witnessing racism. Racism allowed behind closed doors allows it to thrive everywhere.
After Rowan’s vile rant was made public, he apologized by saying his blood sugar spiked. Racism is not connected to diabetes.
Instead, we focus on the Norman girls, who went on to win the 6A state championship.
They used this as a teachable moment, talking more about injustice and reasons behind kneeling. They spoke of their feelings and experiences.
Also, we focus on the solidarity by their opponents, including the Union High School team, who knelt with them.
We are proud of these teenagers and need more of this kind of leadership for Oklahoma to grow stronger.