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Rutgers Players Agree to Meet with Imus, Condemn His Remarks

April 10, 2007 at 5:15 PM EST
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DEE DEE JERNIGAN, Rutgers Women’s Basketball: Good morning. I’m Dee Dee Jernigan. I’m from East Chicago, Indiana, and I’m a freshman.

BRITTANY RAY, Rutgers Women’s Basketball: My name is Brittany Ray.

EPIPHANNY PRINCE, Rutgers Women’s Basketball: I’m Epiphanny Prince.

KIA VAUGHN, Rutgers Women’s Basketball: Good morning, everyone. My name is Kia Vaughn, and I’m from the Bronx in New York, and I’m a sophomore on this great team.

JEFFREY BROWN: After days of being talked about, today a group of young women chose to do their own talking.

KATIE ADAMS, Rutgers Women’s Basketball: Good morning. My name is Katie Adams from Ogden, Utah. I’m a junior, proud member of the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

Captain and head coach's remarks

JEFFREY BROWN: They were responding to the racially charged comments made by radio talk show host Don Imus last week. Twenty-year-old Essence Carson is the team's captain.

ESSENCE CARSON, Rutgers Women's Basketball: 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 the networks that have worked so hard to convey a message of empowerment to young adults, that somehow, some way the door has been left open to attack your leaders of tomorrow.

You must not forget that we are students first, and then we're athletes. And before the student lies the daughter. We ask that you not recognize us in a light as dimly lit as this, but in light that encompasses the great hurdles we've overcome and the goals achieved this season.

JEFFREY BROWN: The team known as the Scarlet Knights actually lost four of their first six games this year before banding together and finding ways to win. With five freshmen players, Rutgers made it all the way to the national championship game, before finally losing to Tennessee.

The next day, in casual banter on a program heard and seen by millions, Don Imus referred to the Rutgers women as, quote, "nappy-headed hos." Vivian Stringer is the team's coach.

C. VIVIAN STRINGER, Head Coach, Rutgers Women's Basketball: Some of you might point to, "Well, you know what? He makes comments about other political figures or other professionals."

These aren't political figures, nor are they professionals. These are hard-working, 18-, 19-, 20-year-old young women who came here to get an education and use their gifts for all to see.

And while they worked hard in the classroom, and have accomplished so much, and used their gifts and talents, you know, to bring the smiles and the pride within this state and so many people, we had to experience racist and sexist remarks that are deplorable, despicable, and abominable, and unconscionable. And it hurts me.

'He knows not one of us'

JEFFREY BROWN: Last night, amid a torrent of criticism, CBS Radio and MSNBC announced a two-week suspension of the Imus program, effective next Monday. This morning, Imus himself continued to explain and apologize for his remarks, first on NBC's "Today Show."

DON IMUS, Radio Host: What I did is made a stupid, idiotic mistake in a comedy context.

JEFFREY BROWN: And then again on his own program.

One prominent figure, baseball legend Cal Ripken, canceled a scheduled appearance today on the Imus show because of the scandal.

This morning, the Rutgers women presented the individual voices and faces behind all the noise.

HEATHER ZURICH, Rutgers Women's Basketball: What hurts the most about this situation is that Mr. Imus knows not one of us personally. He doesn't know that Matee is the funniest person you'll ever meet. Kia is the big sister you never had but always wanted. And Pipf would make an unbelievable lawyer one day.

These are my teammates, my family. And we were insulted, and, yes, we were angry. Worst of all, my team and I did nothing to deserve neither Mr. Imus' nor Mr. McGuirk's deplorable comments.

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. 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.

Offensive words

JOURNALIST: Did you find Don Imus' questions more offensive as a woman or as an African-American?

KIA VAUGHN: Personally, as a woman and an African-American woman, I found that both. I believe that he said, quote, "ho." And unless, in my case, a "ho" stands for achievement or something that you're getting done and you know that you're a wonderful person, then I'm not a "ho."

And at that, I'm a woman. And I'm someone's child. And, you know, it hurts a lot. It does hurt. And there's a lot that should be said. There's a lot that I want to say, but, you know, you can't say it. And I would like to speak to him personally, you know, and express how I feel face to face, and ask him, after you've met me as a person, do you feel, in this category, that I'm still a "ho," as a woman and as a black African-American woman at that?

I achieve a lot. And unless they have given this name, a "ho," a new definition, then that is not what I am.

Meeting with Imus

JEFFREY BROWN: The team announced it would agree to meet Imus, something he requested, to discuss the comments. But players also questioned where Imus was directing his apology so far.

MATEE AJAVON, Rutgers Women's Basketball: I could say that we honestly don't know what to expect from Don Imus. And what we will plan on asking him is, you know, what's his reasons, and how could you just, you know, say things that you have not, you know, put any thought to.

ESSENCE CARSON: We haven't personally received an apology. I believe that these apologies, you know, are written statements given to the media. And, personally, if someone were to apologize to me, I would feel better if I heard from them themselves. Reading it in a newspaper, or watching on television, or hearing it over the radio doesn't serve any justice to what he said.

JEFFREY BROWN: Asked how broadcasters might fill Imus' time over the coming two weeks, Essence Carson offered two suggestions.

ESSENCE CARSON: I mean, it could be highlights of Rutgers women's basketball games.

But on a more serious note, or they can, you know, pretty much put in place programs that embody women, that just, you know, personify what it is to be a woman, a woman. And, I mean, I'm no broadcasting genius, I'm no networking genius, but, you know, I would like to see some good come out of this.

JEFFREY BROWN: The players declined to enter into the very public debate over whether Don Imus should lose his job.