"Now, their names are pretty disgusting, but I'm gonna try to call them out." Probably not what you'd expect to hear from the announcer at a high school girls' basketball game, and yet here we are. The Newkirk Public Schools announcer, whose name has not been released by the district, was removed from his duties at halftime following the incident before Friday night's game between Newkirk and Crooked Oak in Oklahoma, News 9 reports. He was announcing the Crooked Oak names when he made his comment (despite having reportedly gone over the visiting team's names and pronunciations with their coach multiple times before the game), which was captured in a video that has since gone viral. More details:
- Did it have an effect? "It made me feel very uncomfortable and I really didn’t want to play,” Crooked Oak player Jaiana Wiggins says. But the team not only played, they won, taking home their school's first district championship in more than two decades. "It should be a very big accomplishment, but it's kind of getting taken away from us by something we had no control over, something as simple as having different names," one of the players tells WOCO.
- Racist? The Washington Post says critics are calling the comment racist. But "none of us have said that he is racist," one player's mom says. "What we are saying is what he said was despicable and the girls should have been given a public apology like they were demeaned publicly."
- Demographics: Crooked Oak, which is near downtown Oklahoma City, has a student population that is 90% nonwhite; the city of Newkirk, 120 miles away, is more than 80% white.
- Or just an accidental slip-up? Supporters of the announcer, whom the Oklahoman reports is in his 80s and has worked for the district for decades, are describing him as "an old, sweet, innocent man" who was probably trying to say "difficult" and made a "simple mistake." A purported relative of the man says he has had trouble with words since having a stroke.
- Speaking of an apology: While the announcer has yet to follow up his comment, the superintendent issued a statement Saturday morning in which he "sincerely" apologized. "The District's long-time announcer made an unfortunate and inappropriate personal comment," it reads in part. "In around 20 years of announcing Newkirk games, this is the first time something like this has occurred."
- Not enough? But the woman who shot the video says that whether the comment was intentional or unintentional, the girls were hurt by it, and no one ever offered them a direct apology. "I feel that Newkirk officials should have made the apology to the girls and their parents and supporters that had traveled almost 2 hours to be at the game over the same speakers that the hurtful remark was made on," she writes. Adds one of the players who spoke to WOCO, "A lot of people are calling it a mistake because he was an older man, so we'd like to say that if it was a mistake, you could have stopped at that very moment when you said it or the school could've stopped him at that very moment and apologized."
- Announcer's future: Per ABC News, it's not clear what, if any, further repercussions there might be. The superintendent declined to discuss "whatever personnel actions may be taken in the future."
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