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Class 3A basketball: Newkirk apologizes to Crooked Oak for 'botched' player introductions

The players immediately looked around and seemed confused.

Crooked Oak High School’s basketball teams had traveled to Newkirk for a Class 3A district matchup Friday night, and the girls’ starters were set to be introduced before tipoff when the public address announcer said something that caught most everyone in the arena off guard.

“Their names are pretty disgusting, but I’m going to try and call ‘em out.” the announcer said.

Crooked Oak’s players seemed stunned.

A parent recording a video of the introductions voiced astonishment.

“(The announcer) had visited with our coach and went over with our coach and practiced the pronunciation of their names,” said Crooked Oak superintendent Brad Richards, who was in attendance. “He totally botched it.”

Richards said other than the comment, which he said was alarming, he didn’t sense anything else with negative connotations the remainder of the games.

The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association was made aware of the incident Saturday morning. Crooked Oak’s teams were at Newkirk for Class 3A district games, and while the games were part of the OSSAA postseason, the association does not provide a script for announcers during the district round of playoffs. However, it does ask PA announcers to stay fair and unbiased, assistant director David Glover said.

Crooked Oak is less than a mile east of I-35 and a mile south of the Oklahoma River in southeast Oklahoma City. Its student population is about 90% non-white.

The announcer, whose name was not provided by Newkirk officials, has worked decades for Newkirk Public Schools and served in the military. He’s in his 80s, regularly announces the starting lineups and does public address up until tipoff.

Newkirk superintendent Brady Barnes pulled the announcer to the side and told him he was going to have to leave. Barnes told The Oklahoman he never imagined the announcer would say something like that.

“I, myself, was caught off guard when I heard him say that,” Barnes said. “I was like, ‘there’s no way he just said that.’ But he did, and it’s nothing we condone or support.”

The video of the incident was posted on Facebook and quickly went viral.

Barnes released a statement on Newkirk Public School’s Facebook page midday Saturday, saying: “While introducing players at Friday night’s girls high school basketball game, the District’s long-time announcer made an unfortunate and inappropriate personal comment concerning the names of some of the Crooked Oak players. In around 20 years of announcing Newkirk games, this is the first time something like this has occurred. While he did not make any similar comments, I made the decision to replace him at halftime of the girl’s basketball game.”

Barnes said he was not able to speak about what personnel action may be taken.

Some of the announcer’s family, who identified him by the first name Steve, came to his defense on social media. A post from Erica Katwaru, who identifies as his granddaughter, said he “is the BEST human I know,” and “You love with your whole heart. Thank you for everything you do!!”

The situation before the girls’ game Friday night put a damper on what was a successful night for Crooked Oak. Both the girls and boys teams beat Newkirk to win district championships, which has not happened in several years, Richards said.

“I do know that some of (the girls) felt uncomfortable,” Richards said. “But it didn’t seem to affect what happened later in the evening.”

Richards knows there is outrage about the incident, and he hopes people might funnel that anger in a positive way Thursday night when Crooked Oak plays at Millwood.

"A great thing to do," he said, "would be to come to Millwood and support our kids."

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›

Cameron Jourdan

Cameron Jourdan joined The Oklahoman in March 2019 to cover high school sports. He graduated from Oklahoma State University in May 2018. He had an internship with The Oklahoman and Stillwater News Press. During his time at OSU, Cameron served in a... Read more ›