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Rutgers women's team, coach speak out

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- The Rutgers women's basketball team
blasted radio host Don Imus Tuesday for "racist and sexist remarks
that are deplorable, despicable and abominable" and agreed to meet
with the embattled radio host.

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

Rutgers players, who had not spoken publicly until Tuesday,
called his comments insensitive and hurtful -- but reserved judgment
on whether he should be fired until after they meet him.

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

Calls for Imus' dismissal have been growing since he made the
remarks about the team -- which includes eight black women -- a day
after the team lost the national championship game to Tennessee on
April 3.

Office supply chain Staples, Procter & Gamble and Bigelow Tea
all said they pulled advertising from Imus' show in response to his
comments.


"Because of the recent comments that were made on the program
it did prompt us to take a look at our decision to advertise on the
program and we have decided to stop advertising," Staples
spokesman Paul Capelli said Tuesday night.

"Once we became aware of the comment, we sort of stepped back
and took a look at it," he said, declining to disclose the dollar
amount of the advertising involved. "We weren't on today and are
not planning on being on going forward."

Rutgers' players and head coach C. Vivian Stringer said Imus'
comments took the luster off an incredible season.

"The Rutgers university women's basketball team has made
history," said Essence Carson, a junior forward. "We haven't done
anything to deserve this controversy, and yet it has taken a toll
on us mentally and physically."

Rutgers athletic director Robert E. Mulcahy III thought a
meeting with Imus would offer 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.

"We all agreed the meeting with Mr. Imus will help," Carson
said. "We do hope to get something accomplished during this
meeting."

Imus, who has made a career of cranky insults in the morning,
was fighting for his job following the joke that by his own
admission went "way too far."

Imus, while acknowledging the severity of his mistake, said he
just hadn't been thinking when he made the comments. He also said
that those who called for his firing without knowing him, his
philanthropic work or what his show was about would be making an
"ill-informed" choice.

Stringer said her players "are the best this nation has to
offer ... 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."

In Washington, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was asked
whether 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."

"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."

Imus said on "Today" that he believed his show should have a
regular black cast member and more frequent black guests.

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."

The Rev. Al Sharpton also appeared on "Today" and called the
suspension "not nearly enough. I think it is too little, too
late." He said presidential candidates and other politicians
should refrain from going on Imus' show in the future.

Comic Bill Maher, CBS News political analyst Jeff Greenfield and
former Carter administration official Hamilton Jordan all appeared
on Imus' show Tuesday.

Imus' radio show originates from WFAN-AM in New York City and is
syndicated nationally by Westwood One, both of which are managed by
CBS Corp. (MSNBC, which simulcasts the show on cable, is a part of
NBC Universal, which is owned by General Electric Co.)

"Because of the recent comments that were made on the program
it did prompt us to take a look at our decision to advertise on the
program and we have decided to stop advertising," Staples
spokesman Paul Capelli said Tuesday night.

"Once we became aware of the comment, we sort of stepped back
and took a look at it," he said. "We weren't on today and are not
planning on being on going forward."

He declined to disclose the dollar amount of the advertising
involved.

Terry Loftus, a spokesman for Procter & Gamble Co., confirmed
that the company pulled ads from the show as of last Friday but
declined to give details.

Bigelow Tea, based in Connecticut, said late Tuesday that it
would also pull advertising, The Washington Post reported.

While Imus has used his show to spread insults around -- once
calling Colin Powell a "weasel" and other times referring to New
Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as a "fat sissy" and former Colorado
Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, an American Indian, as "the guy from
'F Troop'" -- his comments about the Rutgers women crossed the
line, Stringer said.

"It is more than the Rutgers women's basketball team. It is all
women's athletes. It is all women," said Stringer, the
third-winningest women's basketball coach of all time who has taken
four teams to the Final Four.

Many of the women on the team said while they may have wanted to
ignore Imus' comments, they felt they had little choice but to
address the controversy that had led them to be bombarded with
e-mails and calls from friends, family and the media.

The team's players said they hoped the scandal would serve as an
opportunity to speak up for women and give a voice to issues such
as racism and sexism, but acknowledged that it also served as a
reminder of just how much work needed to be done.

"It kind of scars us. We grew up in a world where racism
exists, and there's nothing we can do to change that," said Matee
Ajavon, another member of the team. "I think that this has scarred
me for life."