Sports Commentators Fired After Calling Athletes 'Español People'

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Two hosts who were casting an online play-by-play of an Iowa high school basketball match-up used racially charged language while describing the players.

A zoomed-in image of a basketball hoop.

Two broadcasters who made blatantly racist remarks during a high school basketball game have been fired, and deservingly so considering what they were saying about student athletes.

On Nov. 28, host Orin Harris and producer Holly Jane Kusserow-Smidt were doing a live, online broadcast of a game between Forest City High School and Eagle Grove High School in north-central Iowa. Although the broadcast never made its way to radio waves, audience members listening online were subjected to racist banter about Hispanic students playing on the court.

During pregame, Harris began listing off the names of Eagle Grove High School players, with Kusserow-Smidt commenting that they sounded like “Español people.”

The two then engaged each other in some distasteful social commentary.

“The latest there is that they’re just going to gradually come into town. Yeah right,” Kusserow-Smidt said at one point, using a sarcastic tone on the end of her comment.

At another point in their banter, Harris told his producer, “they’re all foreigners.”

“As Trump would say, go back where they came from,” he added.

“Well, some would say that, yeah, some days I feel like that, too,” Kusserow-Smidt said in response.

To be sure, these weren’t comments that were caught on a hot mic, Yahoo! Sports reports. This was a discussion between a host and his producer, on the air, meant to provide background for the game that was set to begin.

An Eagle Grove High School student posted the back-and-forth on her Twitter account.

Iowa has seen a strong influx of Latino immigrants, which many communities have warmly welcomed. Some individuals in those communities have not, however, and this is sadly not the first incident of racial prejudice happening at a high school basketball game in the state.

During the presidential election in 2016, for instance, students at a basketball game in Dallas County started chants of “Trump” and “USA” derisively at students from an opposing school whose racial makeup is almost half Hispanic, according to CNN.

It would be foolish to say that there isn't bias in sports, but that bias is generally relegated to which team you prefer to win. With Harris’s and Kusserow-Smidt’s commentary, it’s clear that their biases weren’t limited to sports, but to the racial backgrounds of the players they were set to report on.

This is appalling behavior no matter where it happens. But that it occurred at a high school basketball game, where the love of the sport is supposed to be above all else, is beyond reproach. 

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Charles Platiau 

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