On Monday (March 15), members of the Norman High School and their parents along with attorneys Ben Crump and Mike Laux spoke to the media about the racial slurs hurled at them by a broadcaster during one of their Oklahoma state playoff games.
“Today, we are talking about the courageous act of these young ladies who inspired people beyond just Norman, Oklahoma, beyond just their high school tournament,” attorney Crump said during the virtual press conference. “All across America and people across the world, people have saluted these young ladies for standing up for what is right – to declare that racism has no place in this world.”
Chantae Embry, a senior forward, said her team’s decision to kneel during the national anthem came to bring awareness to America’s racial reckoning.
“We all just decided to come as a team and kneel together because we wanted to bring teaching and awareness to the fact that racism is still alive and well today,” she said. “Just hearing those words and what [the announcer] said was just heartbreaking but we had to push that to the side just because we had one goal and that was to win the state tournament.”
Embry added: “It’s between right and wrong and we chose the right side to do things and not let our voices back down and let us be heard.”
On March 12, a livestream went viral revealing 44-year-old announcer Matt Rowan using the n-word twice in reference to the Norman High School girls basketball team.
“They’re kneeling? F*****g n*****s. I hope Norman gets their ass kicked. F*** them. I hope they lose. They’re gonna kneel like that?” Rowan said. After muttering indistinguishable words, the announcer once again used the n-word to refer to the students.
Rowan later apologized and blamed the incident on a sugar spike as the result of Type 1 Diabetes, TMZ said in an update.
The Norman High School girls went on to win the state championship over the weekend. The Tigers capped their perfect season (19-0) with a 48-37 win over Bixby on Saturday.
“I just think what you guys did and how you were able to close the deal and win out is always going to be a touchstone for you that you can always go back and draw upon when you feel like you don’t have the strength and you feel like things are getting tough,” attorney Laux said to members of the basketball team during the press conference. “That’s just so fantastic.”
On Sunday, the WNBA players' association released a statement in support of and to congratulate the team.
"To our young sisters, the future stars of our sport and rising leaders of this country: We cannot let another day go by without you hearing from us. You demonstrated great courage and conviction in your decision to take a knee for justice. You clearly love this country and desire that it loves you back. We are with you. You have our support," the statement read.
A GoFundMe page has also been created in order to raise money to help fund higher education for theS Norman High school girls basketball team. As of Monday afternoon over $4,300 has been donated.
Crump and Loux say there is no current pending litigation against the National Federation of State High School Network, which produced the livestream, or Rowan. They are, however, calling for accountability and a direct apology from them over the incident and want this to be a teaching moment for everyone in America.
The announcers were reportedly pulled from the remainder of the Oklahoma 6A basketball tournament. It’s unclear whether they will return in the future.
“The broadcaster should be held accountable so something like this doesn’t happen in the future,” said freshman guard Zya Vann.