Rutgers Blasts Imus' "Despicable" Remarks

Some members of Rutgers women's basketball team listen as coach C. Vivian Stringer speaks at a news conference on campus in Piscataway, N.J., Tuesday, April 10, 2007, to react to remarks directed at her team made on air by radio personality Don Imus. The team said they would meet privately with Imus. Players are Rashidat Junaid, from left, Myia McCurdy, Brittany Ray, Epiphanny Prince and Dee Dee Jernigan, all freshmen.
The Rutgers administration and women's basketball team blasted Don Imus' "despicable" remarks Tuesday, but stopped short of saying he should be fired and agreed to meet with the embattled radio host.

In the meantime, however, the televised version of "Imus in the Morning" has lost three sponsors: Staples, Bigelow Tea, and Procter & Gamble.

Starting Monday, Imus will be suspended for two weeksfor calling the Rutgers players "nappy-headed hos."

Rutgers' athletic director, Robert E. Mulcahey III, thought a meeting with Imus offered the team's players a chance to listen to him and hear what he has to say. Several players said they wanted to ask the host why he would make such thoughtless statements.

Ten young women donned their game faces today and walked out onto the national stage, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes. They were determined to show they are nothing like the derogatory terms used to describe them.

"We all agreed the meeting with Mr. Imus will help," Essence Carson, a member of the team that lost the NCAA women's championship game to Tennessee last week, said. "We do hope to get something accomplished during this meeting."

With uncommon poise for students so young, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights described how they went from elation to outrage in the space of 24 hours, adds Cordes. They went from playing in the college basketball championship to being humiliated on a national radio show.

"Unless they've given 'ho' a whole new definition, that's not what I am," said player Kia Vaughn.

Head coach C. Vivian Stringer said her players "are the best this nation has to offer, and we are so very fortunate to have them at Rutgers University. They are young ladies of class, distinction. They are articulate, they are gifted. They are God's representatives in every sense of the word."

She said it's not about the players "as black or nappy-headed. It's about us as a people. When there is not equality for all, or when there has been denied equality for one, there has been denied equality for all."

She further said: "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."

"You imagine in sports that the winners circle is genderless and colorless, and they got disabused of that notion rather abruptly," Sally Jenkins, a sports columnist for the Washington Post, told CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger.

In Washington, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was asked if President Bush thought Imus' punishment was strong enough.

"The president believed that the apology was the absolute right thing to do," Perino said Tuesday. "And beyond that, I think that his employer is going to have to make a decision about any action that they take based on it."

Imus started the firestorm after the Rutgers team, which includes eight black women, lost the championship game. 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.

Imus' comments about the Rutgers players struck a chord, in part, because it was aimed at a group of young women enjoying athletic success.

It also came in a different public atmosphere following the Michael Richards and Mel Gibson incidents, said Eric Deggans, columnist for the St. Petersburg Times and chairman of the media monitoring committee of the National Association of Black Journalists. The NABJ's governing board, which doesn't include Deggans, wants Imus canned.

"What I did was make a stupid, idiotic mistake in a comedy context," Imus said on his show Tuesday morning, the final week before his suspension starts.

Asked by NBC "Today" host Matt Lauer if he could clean up his act as he promised on Monday, he said, "Well, perhaps I can't." But he added, "I have a history of keeping my word."

Of the two-week suspension by MSNBC and CBS Radio, he said: "I think it's appropriate, and I am going to try to serve it with some dignity."