Wrongly Accused Coach Receives Record $25M Defamation Payout


A former high school football coach recently received a substantial $25 million payout following a favorable ruling by an Oklahoma jury in a defamation case.

Scott Sapulpa filed a lawsuit against The Oklahoman, the prominent newspaper in the state, after being mistakenly identified as the individual who used a racial slur to refer to a high school basketball team that kneeled during the national anthem.

In March 2021, Mr. Sapulpa was one of two announcers at a high school basketball game between Midwest City High School and Norman High School.
While the national anthem was being played, players on the Norman High School team chose to kneel.

However, Mr. Sapulpa’s co-announcer, Matt Rowan, made offensive remarks against them without realizing that his microphone was still live.
In their initial coverage of the incident, The Oklahoman mistakenly identified Mr. Sapulpa as the announcer who had made the remarks.

Defamation Lawsuit Emerges After Offensive Language Incident

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 06: NBL Basketballs during the round 14 NBL match between Adelaide 36ers and Melbourne United at Adelaide Entertainment Centre, on January 06, 2024, in Adelaide, Australia.

Mr Rowan later confessed to being the individual who used the offensive language, attributing the incident to a sudden increase in his blood sugar levels.

Mr. Sapulpa filed a lawsuit against the newspaper, alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress stemming from the incident.

A jury in Muskogee County has determined that the newspaper was found to have acted with actual malice.
As a result, they have awarded him $5 million in actual damages and an additional $20 million in punitive damages.

Lark-Marie Anton, a spokesperson for Gannett, which owns The Oklahoman, stated their intention to appeal the ruling, as reported by the paper.

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