“Go Back Where They Came From.” Iowa Sportscasters Direct Racist Comments At High Schoolers

By Pat Rynard

December 4, 2017

Racist attacks directed at high school students happened at an Iowa sporting event yet again, with the video of the comments quickly spreading through social media. This time, at least, people were fired over it.

The KIOW radio station based out of Forest City, Iowa has fired two of its employees after they made blatantly racist comments toward high school basketball players at a local game played against Eagle Grove on November 28. Orrin Harris, a longtime announcer, was let go after outrage quickly built over the viral video. KIOW noted that the commentary did not run on their actual radio station, but it did appear on a video feed that was posted on the Forest City high school’s website.

After calling the Eagle Grove team “pathetic” and “pitiful,” Harris and an unnamed female colleague started making remarks on the players’ names and ethnicities.

“The first three names we got to remember are Enzo Gebara, Spencer Espejo, Nikolas Padilla for Eagle Grove. They have, apparently, a lot of…” Harris started.

“Espanol people,” the female commentator chimed in.

“Espanol people in Eagle Grove,” Harris said.

“Gee, I wonder why that is?” the woman asked. “But, the latest there is that they’re just going to gradually come into town. Yeah, right.”

After a bit more banter where they repeated the players’ names, they went on to speculate about whether the high schoolers had been living in the country very long.

“They sound like they’ve been there a while, given the first names,” the woman said.

“Then there’s Chase Blasi. Sounds like he’s not a foreigner. Could be, though,” Harris said. “As Trump would say, go back where you came from.”

Forest City is a town of 4,000 in Winnebago County in Northern Iowa. Eagle Grove is a town of 3,500 down the road in Wright County.

KIOW said in a statement posted on their Facebook page this morning that they quickly apologized to the Eagle Grove team when they learned about the comments.

“That night when we learned of these comments, we were in contact with the Eagle Grove School District and gathered information about the incident,” KIOW wrote. “On Thursday morning, November 30, a letter of apology was sent to school officials, along with details of our actions in regards to the two employees involved. As a result, both employees have been fired from their positions with the station.”

It’s certainly not the first time racist comments made during an Iowa high school sporting event has riled communities and the state. One of the earliest recent high-profile incidents came in February 2016 when students from Dallas Center-Grimes directed chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump” against Hispanic basketball players from Perry. That incident drew considerable national news and was one of the first major signals that Trump’s candidacy was empowering racist actions around the country.

This September, high school students in Creston who shared images of themselves in KKK-like hooded garb were suspended from school and kicked off the school’s football team. A month later, the Ames High School football team returned from a game to find their locker room vandalized with racist slurs. Also in October, a Clear Creek Amana football player was targeted with racist attacks online after he kneeled before a game.

Here’s the widely-shared video of the racist comments:




by Pat Rynard
Posted 12/4/17

  • Pat Rynard

    Pat Rynard founded Iowa Starting Line in 2015. He is now Courier Newsroom's National Political Editor, where he oversees political reporters across the country. He still keeps a close eye on Iowa politics, his dog's name is Frank, and football season is his favorite time of year.

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