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Apr-10-2007 17:27printcommentsVideo

Rutgers' Women's Basketball Players Agree to Meet with Don Imus (VIDEO)

Imus has said he is a good person who made a stupid, idiotic mistake. See the video at the bottom of the page.

Don Imus
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Video courtesy: CNN and YouTube

(PISCATAWAY, N.J.) - The players, coach, Athletic Director, and President of Rutgers University's women's basketball team during a press conference Tuesday, expressed "anger, disgust, and great hurt" over the comments made by radio talk show host Don Imus, who has been suspended for calling team members last week "nappy-headed hos" during his radio program.

Team members said they have agreed to meet face-to-face with Imus to discuss the controversy privately but did not say whether or not they will accept his apology.

The controversy started when Imus, after the Rutgers team, which includes eight black women, lost the championship game to Tennessee.

He was speaking with producer Bernard McGuirk and said "that’s some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos."

"Some hardcore hos," McGuirk said. "That’s some nappy-headed hos there, I’m going to tell you that," Imus said. April 10th Press Conference Transcribe: Head Coach Vivian Stringer Opening statement: "I see 10 young ladies who have accomplished so much that we, the coaching staff, and the State University are proud of. These young ladies who sit before you are valedictorians of their classes, doctors, musical prodigies, and yes, even girl scouts. These young ladies are the best the nation has to offer and we are so very fortunate to have them here at Rutgers. They are ladies of class and distinction; they are articulate, they are brilliant. They are God's representatives in every sense of the word. What you have to realize is less than a year ago half of these ladies were planning to graduate from high school. There are five freshmen who, as they graduated from high school, thought about the opportunity they would have by coming to Rutgers University and by playing basketball at the highest level. Before you know it, everyone here found themselves on a national stage playing for the world to see, playing basketball at the highest level. This group of women is bright, gifted, hard-working and has persevered through so much.

You have all come to talk about this story, this Don Imus story, but we've lost what this is all about. At the beginning of the year we were humiliated as we lost to Duke, the number one team in the country. But through perseverance and hard work and dedication, through eight to ten hours working and going through film and studying, ultimately they alone became what they could be when no one else believed in them—that's the greatest story. It doesn't matter where you come from but where you're going. It doesn't matter where you started but how you end because that is the story. Perseverance, hard work, determination. This group of classy young women represents all of us. I have pride and respect for them. What's amazing is less than 24 hours after they accomplished so much to have people insult us. We are all physically, emotionally and mentally spent. We are hurt by the remarks that were uttered by Mr. Imus. But these girls understand that no one can make you feel inferior unless you allow them to. My role as a coach is one to love, nurture and discipline these ladies to leadership roles in this society. In all that we do, this group of young women have been represented as nothing less than class in every aspect of all that they do. While they worked hard in the classroom and accomplished so much and used their gifts and talents, you know, to bring the smiles and the pride within this state in so many people, we had to experience racist and sexist remarks that are deplorable, despicable and abominable and unconscionable. It hurts me.

As a sixteen-year old girl, I was a victim of racism but I had a group of people that stood up for me. We (my high school) never had an African American cheerleader and so the chancellor came to my house late one night and asked if I would speak up to the board of education. I initially said no but my dad said some things to me that rang true. He said if you don't stand up for something you'll fall for anything. He said it might not be about you but about future generations of young women. So I went to the school board. I was placed on the cheerleading squad and I became the best I could be. I felt what Mr. Imus said; I've experienced it and I told the team I have experienced it. In my mind, this is a time for change because it's not about just these young women. I ask you, no matter who you are, who could have heard these comments and not been personally offended? It's not about the Rutgers women's basketball team, it's about women. Are women hos? Think about that. Would you want your daughter called a ho? It's not about us as black people or as nappy-headed. It's about us as people—black, white, purple or green. And as much as I speak about that, it's not even black and white—the color is green. How could anyone not have been personally hurt when there is no equality for all or when equality is denied? These young ladies have done nothing wrong. Some of you might point to the fact that he (Don Imus) makes comments about other political figures or other professionals. But these ladies are not professionals or political figures. They are 18, 19, 20 year-old women who came here to get an education and reach their gifts for all to see. These are young women little girls look up to and we as adults, at what point do not call upon people to stop? There is a bigger issue here, more than the basketball team. It's all women athletes, it's all women. Have we lost a sense of our own moral fiber? Has society decayed to such a point where we forgive and forget because it was just a slip of the tongue? I'm going to suggest that people give thought before they speak.

As a coach, I love them and I cherish them and I appreciate the opportunity to prepare them for the world and prepare them for life. We are preparing them for leadership roles in society. It's never just been a basketball game here for us at Rutgers. It's always been about life. We were so excited, my staff and I, to talk to the recruits because what they saw was a group persevere and beat Duke on Duke's floor. They saw a team that heard people say if you're going to succeed you have to face Michigan in front of 15,000 people. And then they said you have to take on the mighty Duke just to get to the finals. And then face mighty LSU that beat Tennessee a week earlier. Everyone said it wasn't possible with this group of five freshmen and five upperclassmen but this was a group that broke all kinds of NCAA records in defense. They showed the world it's not about where you come from but where you're going. It's not about where you start but where you finish. They have restored my confidence and faith as a coach. I respect that their parents would entrust their daughters to me.

Are we as adults responsible enough for nurturing dreams and standing up for what is right? We have to recognize this issue speaks to a bigger issue. To utter such despicable words is not right, whether they are spoken by black, white, purple or green, male or female, tall or short, skinny or thin, it is not right. It is time for everyone to reflect on what is going on. It is time ladies and gentlemen.

I have had the privilege of taking three teams to the Final Four. The first time was with Cheney but I wasn't able to experience it with great joy because my daughter was stricken with meningitis at 14 months and was confined to a wheelchair. With Iowa, my husband died suddenly. My heart has never been light when going to the Final Four. When I came to Rutgers we went to the Final Four in 2000 but we never got to the championship game. It took me personally 25 years to come to get to a championship game. This was a team that had so little and gave so much. This was a team that was so young. This was a team that restored all my faith and confidence in young people. They grew and they matured. They all worked together and became a powerful group.

Rutgers University has had a proud reputation for many years as being one of the highest academic institutions in the country. I say to them (the players) and their parents, I thank them for trusting me with their lives and I understand the magnitude of my responsibility and I honor them and am so proud of them. I thank them. They have no reason to drop their heads. I ask everyone who can hear my voice, please understand that we all need to make changes, all of us beyond Imus. We need to serve as examples of how to be winners on the basketball court and we also need to serve as examples of how to be winners in life. I am thankful to serve as coach and I trust that the President of Rutgers, the governor of New Jersey and our Athletic Director to continue their support, respect and honor of these young ladies. I thank you very much."

Bob Mulcahy: "Those of you have followed the team this past month have had the opportunity to talk to them in lockerrooms, in Hartford, Michigan, Greensboro, and Cleveland and know what they (the players) are like. The rest of the world doesn't know them and understand why we are so proud of these women."

On whether ignoring the issue was discussed:

Bob Mulcahy: "First of all, I don't think there was ever any thought to ignore it. I think you have to understand on Thursday (April 5) we had two celebratory events—we had the ringing of the bell and the celebration with the team and about 2,000 people here Thursday night. We did not want to take away from that but simultaneous with those events, the President issued his first statement and consequently issued another with NCAA President Miles Brand and Coach Stringer issued her personal statement on Friday (April 7). There was never a question in my mind to ignore.

On the parameters of the meeting with Don Imus:

Bob Mulcahy: "It will take place at an undisclosed location, away from the media, away from everybody so that everyone involved can express themselves and will subsequently be made public afterwards. This came about because of a requests made through me to the team and the team discussed it."

On the decision to meet:

Coach Stringer: "It was always the team's decision. They decided and I was proud of their decision."

On the appropriate punishment for Mr. Imus:

Bob Mulcahy: "The purpose of today's meeting was not to discuss that. The purpose of today's gathering was to show people the quality of these young women and give their accomplishments their due. It is up to them to decide, once they have had the opportunity to meet face-to-face, and let us know how they feel about it what they think should be done. I think all of us to a person think that when it is done it will be an opportunity for our society to look at this issue and create more sensitivity and tolerance so that these things don't get said."

President McCormick: "Our exclusive attention on this has been the well-being of our students and their families and their abilities to complete their work at Rutgers. Don Imus' future has not been on the table for us. This is a learning community and our entire endeavor is to make sure we do learn from this event. We want to move forward from this event as a community that understands better how powerful words can be. From the outset we have put our arms around our students and protected them. We cannot say in any way Mr. Imus' future should be."

Coach Stringer: "We have to evaluate the sincerity of the apology and that's one of the reasons we need to do this face-to-face. As I said before, the color is 'green,' not black or white or yellow or brown. We need to look and determine what our moral fiber is. What is important? What message are we sending to these young ladies and to young people across the country? To grandfathers, grandmothers, everyone? This is an opportunity to give back. It's important that we hear him with a clear conscious and give him the opportunity to explain some things but he also gets the chance to meet some young women. But I can't answer that question (on whether Don Imus should be fired) so how can the players answer? We need to do some intraspection after the meeting."

On how the team got to the Championship game:

Coach Stringer: "They had no idea the work that is required to reach the pinnacles of success. This was a team that did not pass what we consider the minimal physical standards. They worked hard from that point. Yes, their cell phones were taken during competitions. On New Year's Eve at 10:30 at night we had several players who are playing professionally come back to meet with the team, this after six to seven hours of drills, and they were so amazed to the love and support that past players had for them. They talked to them and let them know they were honored to be Scarlet Knights. They worked extremely hard, they practiced at five o'clock in the morning. They watched film, they wanted to learn. To see the smiles, to see the same ones do what they doubted they could do, to see them do what they thought they couldn't do. They represented the University at the highest level. They are strong women."

On the terms on which the meeting with Don Imus will take place:

Bob Mulcahy: "The meeting will take place on our terms."

On the reaction from alumni:

Bob Mulcahy: "We have received many, many emails relating to this from people both within and outside of the state. I am not aware that the alumni have scheduled anything at this point."

On private, less public, support:

Coach Stringer: "We have gotten a tremendous amount of support from so many people."

On whether anything compares to the Championship game experience:

Coach Stringer: "This year is particularly special because no one thought this team would make it to the national championship game and it taught me about the resiliency of young people. Nothing can compare to this."

On Imus' future and whether it hinges on money lost:

Coach Stringer: "That's for all of you to determine. The corporate sponsors have taken steps, however big or small, and have at least acknowledged that something wrong was said. Time has to be taken to look at and consider why it happened and consider what would have if we had said such things. We need to reduce it to its core—what it means to be a human being."

Heather Zurich and Essence Carson Statements

Player Q&A Period

Heather Zurich: Good morning, I am Heather Zurich; A sophomore and a proud member of the Rutgers women's basketball team. This week and last we should have been celebrating our accomplishments this past season; many of the media here, may not realize my team started the season 2-4, we were at the lowest of lows, Coach Stringer called us her worst defensive team ever; but we- the ten of us here- , prevailed, we fought, we persevered and most of all, we believed in ourselves. We won 22 of 25 games to finish the season, before falling to Tennessee in the national championship game. .. We won the BIG EAST championship along the way, the first ever and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. We know we shocked a lot of people along the way, but this team did not settle for just showing up- we reached what many only dream about – the NCAA title game. But all of our accomplishments were lost …. Our moment was taken away- Our moment to celebrate our success, our moment to realize how far we came on and off the court as young women; we were stripped of this moment by the degrading comments by Mr. Imus last Wednesday. What hurts the most about this situation is Mr. Imus knows not one of us personally; he doesn't know Mat is the funniest person you will ever meet; Kia is the big sister you never had but always wanted; and Piph would be an unbelievable lawyer someday. These are my teammates, my family. And we were insulted and yes, we are angry. Worst of all, my team and I did nothing to deserve Mr. Imus nor Mr. McGirk's deplorable comments. Our families are upset and with good reason; instead of enjoying our first day off in months to celebrate Easter with our families, this was the topic of conversation. We attend the eighth oldest institution of higher education in the country and not to mention, one of the most difficult academically. (I think many Rutgers students can agree on that) We ten are simply put --student-athletes. But instead of attending study hall this morning, I address you about something that should never have taken place. I am extremely proud of my teammates – I am proud when we walk through an airport on the way to or from a road trip; dressed alike, in Rutgers gear with pressed pants and nice shoes. The ten of us, love getting dressed up for banquets and I believe we present ourselves well – both on and off the court; even though Mr. Imus seemed to think differently. But then again, he knows not one of us. Thank you for your time.

Bob Mulcahy: When you hear these young women, you begin to understand why we felt the support them and bring them out to let you see, and let the country see, what they are. What they stand for. And how they respond to the comments made and how high-class of a respond they have. Essence Carson, the leader of our team, is a straight 'A' student and an accomplished musician. She could go to a piano and play 'Moonlight Sonata' without any notes. This is the kind of thing that people don't focus on, that we have here, and make us so special. That's why these women are so special and our coaches are special and that's why this university is special. Because of the manner in which they have come together from top to bottom. It would be wrong if I didn't acknowledge the support that the governor has given by being here and Reverend DeForest Sories who has been through all of this with us and has been a tremendous. They have been guides to the team, the coaching staff and the athletic director as we handle all these things. We have set aside a couple of minutes for the student-athletes to take questions before they go to their classes. We have a policy and that freshmen do not respond to public questions in the media. But we have the five upperclassmen: Essence, Heather, Kia, Matee and Katie would be happy to respond to any questions you would like to ask.

Essence Carson: Good morning, my name is Essence Carson and I am a junior student-athlete here at Rutgers University. I would like to express our team's great hurt, anger, and disgust towards the words of Mr. Don Imus. We are highly angered at his remarks but deeply saddened with the racial characterization they entailed. Not only has Mr. Imus stolen a moment of pure grace from us, but he has brought us to the harsh reality that behind the faces of networks that have worked to convey a message of empowerment to young adults, that somehow…someway…the door has been left open to attack your leaders of tomorrow. You must not forget that we are students first and then athletes…and before the student lies the daughter. On collegiate athletics' grandest stage, under the brightest lights, with the focal point being nothing other than a trophy that symbolizes the hard work and perseverance of a team so deserving, the curtains were closed on an act that deserved nothing short of an encore. This Rutgers Women's Basketball team has made history. We were the first team in the school's history to reach a national championship final game. We are a team full of bright-eyed youth that aspire to be great…not only great on the basketball court, but in the fields of medicine, music, and psychology. I would like to pose a question…not a question of insult, but one of pure thought…Where were these major networks when the youth were making history for a prestigious university? Now we are bombarded with cameras, phone calls, and emails that invade our privacy and place us between a rock and a hard place. We haven't done anything to deserve this controversy, but yet it has taken a toll on us mentally and physically. Driven to a point of mental and physical exhaustion, we ask that you not recognize us in a light as dimly lit as this, but in a light that encompasses the great hurdles we've overcome and goals achieved this season.

Now with that said, we have agreed to have a meeting with

Mr. Don Imus. This meeting will be a private meeting at an undisclosed location in the near future. We just hope to come to some type of understanding of what the remarks really entailed, his reasons why they were said. And we'd just like to express our great hurt. The sadness that has been brought to us is more than the game of basketball, is more than the Rutgers women's basketball team.

As Coach Stringer said, we realize that it's about women across the world, across this nation. It just so happens that we finally take a stand. And we ask that you continue to support us and not look at it as we're attacking a major broadcasting figure. We're attacking something — an issue that we know isn't right. And we just continue to ask for your support and thank you for your support thus far.

Player Q&A period

On the meeting with Imus:

Matee Ajavon: "I have to say that we honestly don't know what to expect in the meeting with Don Imus. But we will plan on asking him: what are his reasons? And how could you just say things that you had not put any thought to? Right now, I can't really say if we have come to a conclusion on whether we will accept the apology. I think this meeting will be crucial to us, the state of New Jersey and everybody representing us."

Essence Carson: "We as a group have decided that this meeting with Mr. Imus will help. We have thought about it, the thought of him cleansing his image with a personal apology has definitely crossed our minds. We understand that this isn't the first time this has happened, it's not the second and it sure isn't the third time so there must be a lot of cleansing that's going on. But we do hope to get something accomplished during this meeting."

Kia Vaughn: "I have no comment on towards whether or not he should be fired. Within this meeting, I'd like to know the reasons for saying what was said and you might look at it as being a harsh meeting, but I'd like for him to get to know us, as a whole, and understand why we're great people and why, for us, that statement is false."

On the demeaning of women in society:

Essence Carson: "I know that rap, hip-hop and music of that genre has desensitized America and this world to some of the words that they choose to use in their lyrics. I understand that, but it doesn't make it any more right for anyone to say it. Not only Mr. Imus, but, if I was to say it, it doesn't make it right. It doesn't make it right if you're African-American, Caucasian, Asian, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that it's wrong. As a society, we're trying to go and trying to surpass that to the point where we don't classify women as hoes. We don't classify African-American women as 'nappy-headed hoes'. Or anything other than that. Other than they classy women that I believe every woman at this press conference is."

On the apologies released:

Essence Carson: "I'm sorry ma'am, but we haven't personally received an apology. These apologies have been written and released to the media. Personally, if someone were to apologize to me, I'd feel better, if they were apologize to me themselves. Reading it in the newspaper, watching it on television, or hearing it over the radio doesn't serve any justice to what he said."

On what the last week has been like:

Kia Vaughn: "During Easter, I have seven brothers, as everyone does know, instead of spending time with them and having fun, I had to cut off my phone. The media was trying to get through to talk to relatives and even people, being fans, were showing up in this moment of hurt. It was good to hear from some people, but to have to repeatedly express how I felt, I became really agitated. [What is happening] takes away from school, study hall, things we should be doing and things that we are capable of succeeding in. But, instead, we have to address a situation that should never have been spoken upon."

On what is to come from this:

Essence Carson: "I believe there are a lot of positives that can come from this. One thing is that we finally speak up for women, not only African-American women, but all women. That's just going to be a major step forward in society, just to finally understand thatthere isn't that equality that we all wish was there. It's something we all hope for, but until we make those great strides to achieve that, we're going to continue to fall short. I'm glad we're speaking up. I feel like we can achieve that [equality]."

On the suspension:

Essence Carson: "I can't quite characterize the suspension. I believe that his employers have done a great job, especially with the apologies that they have sent out to the media. At the same time, the situation isn't over. There is still work to be done."

On those who have taken up the cause:

Essence Carson: "I believe that Reverend Sharpton is using this as another example for something that he's been fighting a long time. It just happens to be us. It just brings us to a harsh reality that the things that we're discussing today, aren't over. They haven't been resolved. I haven't been personally contacted, but I like my privacy so the phone calls have been quite annoying and aggravating. I wish that they could stop. But, I believe that he's doing a good thing, just as he always has done."

On the networks that carry Imus' program:

Essence Carson: "As far as his employers, the radio station that broadcast the show, we all know it's about how many people are listening and your ratings. I can't blame them for supporting his show prior to this incident. He does have pretty good ratings, so I've heard. I believe they have taken action with his suspension. I don't know what else will happen. We haven't really come to the conclusion on what we'd like to happen, that's still up in the air."

On the impression accepting an apology will give to people across the country:

Essence Carson: "We haven't really discussed accepting his apology. That's what I believe the meeting will be for and that's what we'll cover. I think then we'll get a better understanding of his apology that has been released to the press. There's still a lot more contemplation that has to go on. We have to discuss it as a team, as a program, as a university, together, because this has not only affected us, but women across the nation.

On message to convey to NAACP youth and college chapters

Matee Ajavon: "I think the message that needs to be conveyed starts with women. Black women, all colors. Women are equal. We need to start taking more head into what women do in this world and women can accomplish anything they put their minds to. As far as the NAACP, I would like to say that we really thank you guys for coming out. It's not just about black women. We have a lot to say-women in general. We have to show the world that we're worth more and we can't be bashed for our gender."

On the thought of ignoring comments:

Essence Carson: "At first, as a whole, I believe our first thought was to let it slide. But after reading the transcript of the conversation, it hit a little too close to home. The remarks that were made were unacceptable. Not only because he's a broadcaster that gets his show across to so many people because he's in the nation's biggest media market in New York, but because he reaches so many people, can you imagine how many people may have really did think there might be truth behind his joke? Just growing up in a society as a 20-year-old, I've seen a lot of things. I've seen things happen to women and I've heard about things that happen to women—you learn about them in school. You don't get too many opportunities to stand up for what you know is right, I know we're at a young age and we know what's right and what should be done. We're glad to have the opportunity to stand up for what is right.

Heather Zurich: "Besides the fact that the comment was something we didn't want to ignore, it was kind of hard. The media was calling our houses, our cell phones, following us around campus. We went home for the weekend and you couldn't ignore the issue. The media wanted to know our opinion so it was kind of hard to ignore."

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Jim April 13, 2007 8:55 pm (Pacific time)

If you Call can George Bush a liar You should be able to call a spade a spade.

Anus in the Morning April 11, 2007 11:36 am (Pacific time)

Reality check, I know about Russia, but it is still offensive to Germans if you call them Nazi's. As a matter of fact, in Germany you can be arrested just for saying certain pro-Nazi-jargon or being what is now called a "Holocaust Denier", search "David Irving" under Google. He is a famous author from England. I believe he is in an Austrian jail which I think is a bit extreme. The same is the case in other European countries. I know that it is hard to decide where to draw the line but the reality is that I still hear people saying things that devalue any number of groups of human beings by labeling them or associating them with some stereotype. By the way, I think that "my handle" is pretty funny too, that is why I used it and thanks for mentioning it.

Hank Ruark April 11, 2007 7:48 am (Pacific time)

Democracy demands "free speech" as a right --but, as with every other "right" in a civilized culture, that carries responsibility, too. Imus is not the only one we should hold responsible --and punish, too. "The media" stand revealed and, reluctant or not, also deeply at fault here. Any cogitating citizen should refrain from the dirt and dross found far too frequently in open channels, including this one... SO go "look in the mirror" and remember when you participate: What we "say" shapes what we think --and then, too often, what we do, too.

Face Facts April 11, 2007 6:41 am (Pacific time)

If Imus was black this wouldn't be a story at all!!

Reality check April 11, 2007 6:28 am (Pacific time)

First off, "Anus," that has to be the funniest handle ever used in order to protest anything. I'm going to go out on a limb and say you don't really believe any of what you just wrote because of how detached and naive it sounds. I'd advise you to go to and look up the words "humor" and "sarcasm" before you get back on your soapbox. He didn't call a bunch of 70-something, church-going women "Whores", but responded to the joke his partner made about the fact that many of the Ruters women's college Basketball players have tattoos (does your small town church Grandma wear tattoos and shoot 3-pointers?). But before I go, I MUST point out the largest contradiction you made when you first said that people should be punished for using free speech and then saying you wanted to outlaw calling a Russian a Commie! *ahem* 1) Russia hasn't been a communist country in over a decade. 2) Illegalizing free speech IS communism! Anus, go play with a ball or something while the big people talk about "important things."

Slam; April 10, 2007 9:31 pm (Pacific time)

if the rev. J.Jackson called me a honkie to my face I'd react appropriately, and if I called him a non-honkie to his face, he'd react appropriately. If we did it on the air or other media we'd be subject to appropriate "legal" reaction already on the books. Looks like Mr. A will be looking for work soon! Maybe as Limbaugh's chauffeur during Rush's times of incapacitation?

Anus in the Morning April 10, 2007 7:03 pm (Pacific time)

If someone called your small town church a Grandma Whore House people would be up in arms. All of this has to be stopped in this country. It is not a Free Speech issue. What surprises me is that many people still are not punished for making grotesque anti-lesbian and homosexual remarks. I think what Anus did was stupid and very immature for someone his age. Until all people are protected, no one should have special protection. We need a new law that stops people from calling people cruel names under the guise of Free Speech just because they belong to a group that appears to have a common backround. Even calling a Russian a Commie should be illegal.

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