Oklahoma: Sports Broadcaster Awarded $25M After Newspaper Falsely Labels Him As Racist

A man operates a broadcast camera during the Budapest 2022 World Aquatics Championships at Duna Arena in Budapest on June 19, 2022. (Photo by François-Xavier MARIT / AFP) (Photo by FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN’s Abril Elfi
12:13 PM – Tuesday, February 6, 2024

A high school sports broadcaster has been awarded $25 million after a newspaper wrongfully confused him with another broadcaster and insinuated that he was racist.


A jury in Oklahoma awarded Scott Sapulpa $25 million on Monday, concluding that the largest newspaper publisher in the state had wrongfully accused him of racism, mistaking him for a pundit who had made infamously offensive and racist statements during a 2021 broadcast of a women’s basketball game.

Sapulpa received an award of $5 million in actual damages and an additional $20 million in punitive damages from the Muskogee County jury.

“We’re just so happy for Scott. Hopefully this will vindicate his name,” said Michael Barkett, Sapulpa’s attorney.

Sapulpa claimed that the media company, Gannett, the parent company of The Oklahoman, had intentionally caused him emotional distress and defamed him, and the jury concluded that the newspaper had done so with actual malice.

(Photo via: @nondocmedia X Account)

A spokesperson from the newspaper, Lark-Marie Anton, stated that the company was disappointed by the verdict and that they planned to appeal. 

“There was no evidence presented to the jury that The Oklahoman acted with any awareness that what was reported was false or with any intention to harm the plaintiff in this case,” Anton said.

Before the women’s high school basketball game between Norman and Midwest City in 2021, a livestream host went on a “racist rant” regarding one of the teams and even cursed at them behind the scenes after the players began kneeling during the national anthem.

On the livestream, the presenters informed their audience that they would return after a short break. Then viewers could hear someone saying, “They’re kneeling?, (Expletive) them” seemingly unaware that the microphone was still on. “I hope Norman gets kicked in the ass…(Expletive) (racist epithet),” the man said. 

The newspaper first named Sapulpa as the source of the previous offensive remarks that were heard on the “hot mic.”

An attorney for Gannett, Bob Nelon, stated that the newspaper recognized the mistake and quickly took down Sapulpa’s name, arguing that awarding Sapulpa so much money would “harm the smaller newspapers” that the company owns.  

“Newspapers are made up of people, and people make mistakes. Mistakes happen,” Nelon said. “Gannett is made up of people — over 11,000 people. When you punish Gannett, you’re punishing all those small-town newspaper editors.”

Matt Rowan, the owner of the operating streaming service, later told the newspaper that he was the one who actually made the “racist remarks” and not Sapulpa. He also apologized, blaming his “blood-sugar levels” and diabetes for the hot mic scenario. 

Following the verdict on Monday, Sapulpa said that he felt “numb.” 

“My kids, their last name is cleared, too,” he said with tears coming down his face.

Stay informed! Receive breaking news blasts directly to your inbox for free. Subscribe here. https://www.oann.com/alerts

Share this post!