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April 17, 2024

Bad & Nationwide

Delta State’s Fighting Okra highlighted in ESPN Commercial

By Andy Collier

Sports Editor, The Bolivar Bullet

Delta State University made some nationwide news during the NCAA Division I College Football Playoff National Championship game between the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs and the University of Georgia Bulldogs on Jan. 9. 

The Fighting Okra, an unofficial mascot of Delta State University, was featured in ESPN’s “This is SportsCenter.” In the commercial,  ESPN anchors Elle Duncan and Kevin Negandhi had a meeting with The Fighting Okra to talk about the Okra’s bad attitude. The commercial is called “Performance Evaluation.” The Okra stood there with that never changing expression as Duncan talked about how coworkers weren’t thrilled with the Okra’s attitude. Some of the adjectives used to describe the Okra were “moody,” “passive aggressive but not exactly passive” and “ a buzz kill.”

The commercial had DSU fans excited on Facebook as they were thrilled about the Fighting Okra’s appearance on national television. For many local football fans watching the national championship game, it was the highlight of the evening as Georgia pummeled TCU 65-7.

Delta State University Head Cheerleading Coach Mary Evans took the Fighting Okra down to ESPN Headquarters after Thanksgiving in the first week of December to shoot the commercial. 

Evans first heard that ESPN invited the Okra to do the commercial when Delta State University Coordinator of Media Relations Tyler Bennett forwarded her an e-mail he received inviting the Okra do the commercial in the early part of November. 

With the official mascot of Delta State University being the Statesman, Evans made sure everyone at the university was on board with doing the commercial involving the Okra. 

“We had to call, text and email several different people to make sure since it’s not really our official mascot,” said Evans. “We wanted to make sure that we had the approval to go from the athletics side and the university.  We joke about how they just googled mean okras or mean mascots, and Delta State pops up. They emailed us and showed us a script of what they wanted us to be portrayed as. Those that gave us the approval all read the script, and they were like, ‘Okay, lets go do it.’ We were super excited.”

When the ball got rolling on the commercial, it was a quick whirlwind as Evans and the Fighting Okra flew down to Hartford. Conn. and went to Bristol where ESPN Headquarters is located. 

“We flew down there on a Thursday morning, and we came back late that Friday night,” said Evans. 

Okra described how the people at ESPN wanted it to act in the commercial. 

“Going into the beginning of the commercial, they told me that I needed to look a little angry about getting called into the office,” said Okra. “At the very end when my arms shrug down, they told me I needed to be very upset about the buzzkill accusation.”

At first, Okra said it didn’t know when the commercial would air. 

“We didn’t really know going into it when we were going to get shown on TV,” said Okra. “They didn’t release that until later. When ever we found out about it, we were all super happy.”

Evans said she and Okra received the news that the commercial would come on a couple of days before it aired. 

Evans was happy about the reaction the commercial got. 

“To actually see one of our mascots on national television, we were like, ‘Oh my Gosh. There he is,’” said Evans. “We were super excited. Hopefully, we’ll get more feed back and more opportunities to do this.”

When the commercial aired, people let the Okra know how proud they were. 

“I had a lot of family contact me after the game just sending pictures of me on TV,” said Okra. “I just think everyone loved the commercial.”

Okra was happy with the reaction the commercial got from people that had gone to school at DSU in the past. 

“After reading some of the comments, I noticed it got more alumni back into to Delta State,” said Okra.