Wichita State basketball player Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler’s name became fodder for CBS Sports Network broadcasters during Monday’s Hall of Fame Classic game.
In the middle of the game, which was eventually won by WSU, Poor Bear-Chandler grabbed a rebound, which led broadcasters Chick Hernandez and Chris Walker to zero in on his name, mistakenly referring to him as “Pooh Bear” and cracking up over it.
Note: strong language courtesy of the person who recorded this video.
Here's @CBSSports announcers mocking @Big_I35's name on national television. If you get PAID to call games and say people's names, maybe research in advance to understand it's a Native American name. #ShockerNation pic.twitter.com/ErycVAoRbq
— Ryan W. Gates (@RyanWGates) November 21, 2022
“He’s got Pooh Bear on the back of his jersey,” Walker said. “I love that.”
“It is one of the better names in college basketball,” Hernandez said.
“No, that is the best name in college basketball,” Walker followed. “Pooh Bear? You’ve got to be kidding. I was like, ‘OK, let me look in my notes. Maybe I said something wrong here.’”
Making fun of a college kid’s name is already a bit out of bounds, but when that player’s name comes from his Native American heritage, then you’re treading in some very offensive territory. According to Wichita State’s website, Poor Bear-Chandler is “50 percent Native American and the first half of his last name “Poor Bear” reflects that ancestry” as he is “a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe who grew up on a reservation in Pine Ridge, S.D. before moving to Omaha, Neb. for high school.”
According to Kansas.com, the announcers did acknowledge Poor Bear-Chandler’s heritage later on in the broadcast but continued to crack jokes as well.
“I love that and shoutout to coach Isaac Brown for allowing him to have that on his jersey,” Walker said. “I love it.”
“You know opponents are calling him ‘Winnie’ at some point,” Hernandez said.
After the game, Poor Bear-Chandler became aware of the clip and responded to the announcers in a series of tweets.
@CBSSports this not cool fr.. https://t.co/P36LTJhmLb
— Isaiah Poor Bear (@Big_I35) November 21, 2022
“So it’s okay to make fun of my last name?” asked Poor-Bear Chandler. “Just shows your ability to be serious in a professional setting. Just because my people was almost colonized doesn’t mean I don’t know where I come from!”
So it’s okay to make fun of my last name? Just shows your ability to be serious in a professional setting. Just because my people was almost colonized doesn’t mean I don’t know where I come from! #WeAreStillHere #WildOglala #TeachHim https://t.co/P36LTJhmLb
— Isaiah Poor Bear (@Big_I35) November 21, 2022
Poor Bear-Chandler also shared reactions from others that illustrated some of the reasons why respecting the name of a Native American person comes with a certain weight.
In many cases, Native children forced into residential schools had their names translated to English, turned into their surnames, and given an English first name. So when you hear a last name like Poor Bear, respect how those surnames were created—from survivors. https://t.co/ANyhFhZKmu
— Charlie (@crimelinespod) November 22, 2022
On Tuesday morning, Hernandez and Walker met with Poor Bear-Chandler to apologize in person before the Shockers played in the Hall of Fame Classic championship game against San Francisco.
The broadcasters also apologized on air when Poor Bear-Chandler checked into Tuesday’s game.
“Chris and I would like to take this time to publicly apologize to Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler, his family, the Native American community, NABC, the Hall of Fame Classic for our comments and lack of sensitivity surrounding Isaiah’s name during yesterday’s game,” Hernandez said. “We asked for and met with Isaiah this morning to apologize in person and express our deep regret. We appreciate Isaiah taking the time to educate us on the significance of his name and his heritage. We will continue to learn from this and be better moving forward.”
On Tuesday, Wichita State University also released a statement, denouncing the commentator’s “inappropriate and insensitive” comments, but adding that they were appreciative of CBS Sports Network’s and the announcers’ efforts to apologize and learn.
“We are appreciative of CBS Sports Network’s apologetic efforts, both in-person at (the) pre-game meal this morning and on-air during today’s NABC Hall of Fame Classic Championship contest,” read the statement. “To his credit, Isaiah facilitated an educational and enlightening discussion engaging numerous individuals, including CBS Sports Network’s on-air talent. Isaiah strongly desires for this unfortunate circumstance to serve as a positive learning opportunity in support of the Indigenous community.”