Rutgers Players Speak Out
Their moment of glory didn't last long. On April 4, 2007, the morning after Tennessee walked away with the national title, radio talk show host Don Imus went on air and called the Rutgers women's team "nappy-headed hos."
Since that morning, Imus's comment has created a firestorm of controversy. With many people calling for him to be fired and taken off the air, MSNBC cancelled his televised simulcast, Imus in the Morning. Then, on April 12, 2007, CBS, the company that syndicated his program, cancelled his radio show.
The Rutgers team did not call for Imus to be fired. "We didn't have a purpose or an agenda, so to speak, as to whether or not he's hired [or] fired. … My appeal was more to the American people [and] our sense of social consciousness, because his remarks are certainly racist and sexist," Coach Vivian Stringer says. "It was clear to me that by the cancellation of the Imus show, it shows that we do have a moral fiber and we as a people are speaking up."
She says that these young ladies are not "hos," as Imus called them. In fact, she says they are future doctors, musical prodigies, valedictorians and leaders. "These young ladies embody all of what we would hope young people [would become]," she says.
Kia Vaughn, a sophomore on the team, says she was shocked and upset when she heard Imus's remarks. "Unless 'ho' was given a new definition, then that's not who I am," she says. "That's not part of my characteristics or anything of the sort."
The controversial comment also stole the players' moment of joy, says Essence Carson, the team's captain. "We came back from Cleveland hoping to be embraced with warm hearts," she says. "As soon as that moment seemed like it was at its peak, it seemed like the world came down on us to be the focal point of such a remark. It is just so sad because no one pays attention to who actually won the game."
Coach Stringer says the support of the American people has helped her team during this difficult time, but Imus's remarks have affected more than just the players on the team. "Not only did he steal our dreams, he's hurt us tremendously, hurt our character," she says. "[He also hurt] Rutgers University, our state and certainly all [of us] who have been associated [with the comment], as well as our future recruiting."
"We want to see the man behind the mic, because oftentimes we have titles, but it doesn't define us as people," Coach Stringer says. "We wanted him to get a chance to know who we are. And we certainly wanted to know who this man was."
Coach Stringer hopes the meeting, which will include players, coaches and parents, will be a catharsis of sorts. "We'll have an opportunity to put this to rest," she says. She also promises that her team will go into the meeting with open hearts and open minds.
"I speak for myself and every woman I know when I say that you all have made us so proud by the way you have handled this entire ordeal," Oprah tells the Rutgers team. "You've handled it with such grace."