Oklahoma Broadcaster Awarded $25 Million After Newspaper Wrongfully Called Him ‘Racist’ for On-Air Comments

An Oklahoma high school basketball broadcaster has filed a defamation lawsuit against a local newspaper for tweeting racial slurs during the broadcast after members of the team took a knee to protest America during a game. Obtained $25 million in compensation.

The incident occurred in March 2021, when members of the Norman High School girls basketball team protested the United States by kneeling during the national anthem before a game. The broadcast team of Scott Sapulpa and Matt Rowan were in the booth at the time, and listeners were shocked when one of them began attacking the girls with a racial epithet.

“Are they kneeling? Damn, n—-s. I hope Norman gets their ass kicked. Fuck them. I hope they lose. They Are you going to kneel like that?” one broadcaster was heard saying on the game’s livestream. This comment understandably caused outrage.

In the news about offensive broadcasts, Oklahoman The newspaper reported that Sapra was the one who heard the racist comments on air. The report pointing to Sapura ran for only a few hours before the paper corrected the article and properly identified Rowan, Sapura’s broadcast partner, as the person who had actually made the comment.

(Mati Mix/Getty Images)

The newspaper published its first article identifying Sapra as the abuser at 11 a.m., and updated the story at 12:37 to include Sapra’s name, but by 3 p.m., suspicions arose and Sapra’s name was changed. Deleted. By that night, Rowan admitted that it was her voice that she heard criticizing the high school girls who knelt on her, and that she had made the comments during a side effect of her diabetes.

Despite the modifications, Sapura suedsaid his reputation had been irreparably damaged as a result of being unfairly identified as a racist on-air speaker. new york post report.

On January 5, a jury agreed with Sapra and awarded newspaper chain Gannett a $25 million settlement. Oklahoman. The jury ordered the chain to pay Sapura $5 million in actual damages and an additional $20 million in punitive damages.

“As we’ve seen in this case, their whole culture is about putting profit over people,” Sapra’s attorney, Michael Burkett, said during arguments in the case. “Their power prevents them from telling the truth. They think they can get away with it.”

Gannett’s attorney, Bob Nelson, warned that such a large settlement would hurt small newspapers everywhere.

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(John Justina/Getty Images)

“Newspapers are made up of humans, and humans make mistakes. Mistakes happen,” Nelson exclaimed. “Gannett is made up of over 11,000 people. Punishing Gannett means punishing every small-town newspaper editor.”

Gannett spokeswoman Lark Marie Anton also criticized the verdict, saying “no evidence was presented to the jury.” The Oklahoman acted knowing that what was reported was either false or intended to harm the plaintiffs in this case. ”

In any case, Sapra celebrated the verdict and said it cleared her and her children’s names.

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