Oklahoma Man Awarded $25 Million After False Accusations in Racist Basketball Announcer Case

Muskogee County, Oklahoma – A man in Oklahoma has been awarded $25 million by a jury after he was wrongly identified as the announcer who made racist comments during a 2021 broadcast of a girls’ basketball game. The verdict came after Scott Sapulpa sued the state’s largest newspaper for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The jury in Muskogee County ruled in favor of Sapulpa, granting him $5 million in actual damages and an additional $20 million in punitive damages. Sapulpa’s attorney, Michael Barkett, expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of the case, stating, “We’re just so happy for Scott. Hopefully, this will vindicate his name.”

The jury determined that the newspaper acted with actual malice, allowing them to consider punitive damages. Lark-Marie Anton, a spokesperson for the newspaper’s owner, Gannett, expressed disappointment with the verdict and announced plans to appeal.

The incident occurred during a girls high school basketball game in 2021, when an announcer for a livestream made racist remarks as the players kneeled during the national anthem. Sapulpa was mistakenly identified as one of the announcers commentating on the game.

One of the announcers, Matt Rowan, later admitted to making the offensive comments and apologized for his use of racist language, attributing it to his blood-sugar levels. Rowan owned and operated the streaming service involved in the incident.

The jury’s verdict brings some measure of justice to Sapulpa, who suffered the consequences of being wrongly associated with the racist comments. The sizeable award acknowledges the harm caused to Sapulpa’s reputation and emotional well-being.

The outcome of this case highlights the importance of responsible reporting and the potential consequences of misidentifying individuals involved in controversial incidents. It serves as a reminder that media outlets must uphold their duty to accurately report the facts and avoid damaging the reputation of innocent individuals.

Sapulpa’s successful lawsuit against the newspaper sends a message that defamation and the intentional infliction of emotional distress will not go unchallenged. It sets a precedent for holding media organizations accountable for their actions and ensuring that individuals wrongfully accused of wrongdoing can seek legal recourse.

While the newspaper plans to appeal the decision, the jury’s ruling emphasizes the significance of accurate and ethical journalism. It underscores the need for media outlets to thoroughly verify information before publishing, particularly in cases involving sensitive and contentious subjects.

Overall, Sapulpa’s victory in court showcases the power of the judicial system in rectifying reputational damage and providing justice for individuals wronged by false accusations. The substantial financial award serves as a deterrent to media organizations, urging them to exercise caution and responsibility in their reporting practices.